U.S. Department of Agriculture's agricultural researchers update farmers on phosphorus

[USA] Two researchers studying the issue of dissolved phosphorus and algae blooms Monday updated farmers applying for grants to help alleviate runoff from agricultural fields.

“We’re really trying to get a handle on what’s causing this problem,” said Kevin King, research engineer with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service.

He said a small amount of phosphorus is causing the problem, even when most farmers are highly efficient.

While there are many causes that contribute to the issue, King said water running out of field tile into streams is one of the main ones.

“Tile drainage is a big one,” he said. “But tile drainage is a necessity.”

When water drains through the soil, he said phosphorus tends to remain in the soil. However, water that runs directly into tiles doesn’t get the benefit of filtering.

“We see a significant amount of phosphorus coming out of tiles,” King said, “more than we ever thought possible.

“We need to change some of our thinking with our tiling and how we get soil structure built back up,” he said.

King said his ongoing research comparing paired fields to test the effectiveness of various practices on the amount of phosphorus that ends up in streams.

The only Seneca County farm in the study is the Bret Margraf farm near McCutchenville, but there are 19 more pairs throughout Ohio, mainly in northwest Ohio.

Laura Johnson, research scientist with Heidelberg University’s National Center for Water Quality Research, explained why researchers have determined runoff from farm fields is a large contributor.

She gave a history of harmful algal blooms.

“We’re worried about it because since 2008, we have had some really big blooms,” she said.

After heavy spring rains, this year’s bloom was predicted to be severe, and she said algae growth seems to have hit its peak in mid-August.

“The bloom is starting to die down a little bit. Hopefully, it’ll continue to do that,” she said. “We did have some really interesting bloom dynamics. The bloom started at the islands this year, and from there on out it formed going backwards.”

Usually the bloom begins near the mouth of the Maumee River and works its way east.

The program was prerequisite for farmers participating in the first phase of the Personalized Phosphorus Plan grant aimed at farmers in the Muskellunge Creek, Wolf Creek and Muddy Creek areas of Seneca, Sandusky, Hancock and Wood counties.

The grant, which continues two more years, provides funding for developing a personalized phosphorus plan, planting cover crops and participating in on-farm research.

The grant is funded through the Great Lakes Commission using funds from the Natural Resources Conservation Service and is provided through the Seneca Conservation District.


View original article at: Algae issues

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