While there continues to be some finger pointing over who’s responsible for the increase in harmful algal blooms, some growers are quitting the blame game to focus on how they can be a part of the solution.
Dwight Clary is one of those growers. A continuous no-tiller for 33 years, he practices the 4Rs of nutrient management (the right rate of the right formula at the right place at the right time) and aims to cover crop 100% of his 1,000 acres in Kansas, Ohio, usually achieving coverage on 600 to 700 acres. When he saw sediment leaving his fields after bad storm events, he came up with the Clary In-Stream Sediment Collector to collect and remove sediments that were clogging streams.
In doing so, he discovered he was also collecting nutrients that would eventually flow into Lake Erie — soil tests showed an equivalent of 46.5 pounds of available phosphorus and 200 pounds of available potash per acre. While Clary’s been piling the sediment to show visitors just how much he’s collecting, he plans to eventually spread that back onto his fields as rich topsoil.
This is the kind of forward thinking we need to see more of among growers. As crop consultant Mark Alley told me, the times he’s seen growers overcome problems is through innovation and efficiency.
And it shouldn’t stop with agriculture. Clary says he tries to get out in the community to promote what he’s doing and learn what people outside of farming are doing to be a part of the solution.
“There’s so many things the public thinks farmers are doing and they’re wrong,” Clary says. “And vise versa. I go to these meetings and there are people there from the urban areas, and we, as farmers, don’t realize some of the things they’re doing to improve the situation.
“It’s good when we all can sit at the same table and talk about the same problem.”
There’s already talk of a possible tax on phosphorus fertilizer to reduce the algal blooms, and some are suggesting this tax should apply to just the lawn-care industry. I think everyone needs to quit the blame game and work together to come up with solutions before someone else tells farmers what to do.