Frank Lessiter, No-Till Farmer Editor
Frank Lessiter, No-Till Farmer Editor

When National Geographic Writers Condemned No-Till as the Culprit Behind Lake Erie’s Poor Water Quality and Algae Blooms, They Got it Totally Wrong

National Geographic magazine recently did an in-depth article on what’s threatening the health of the five Great Lakes. The magazine is read by 3.5 million U.S. readers and in it no-till was blamed for the poor water quality and algae blooms that are choking the life out of Lake Erie. 

While the Lake Erie water quality situation is complicated, condemning no-till doesn’t make sense due to the limited amount of no-till used in the major watershed around Toledo, Ohio.

No-till gained popularity in the 1990s as a way to improve Lake Erie’s water quality, but now the article’s author maintains it has had the opposite effect due to high phosphorus (P) concerns. Admitting that a reduction in moldboard plowing in northwestern Ohio dramatically reduced soil erosion, he argues that applying P close to the soil surface with no-till leads to an unfortunate situation. He makes the argument that no-till leads to an overload of P in Lake Erie, causing  poor water quality and more severe algal blooms.

In addition, the author blames northern Ohio growers for little…

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Lessiter frank

Frank Lessiter

Frank Lessiter has served as editor of No-Till Farmer since the publication was launched in November of 1972. Raised on a six-generation Michigan Centennial Farm, he has spent his entire career in agricultural journalism. Lessiter is a dairy science graduate from Michigan State University.

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