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Pilot project to test methods reducing phosphorus loss from farm fields

Strip till unit is being built by Rohrs Manufacturing of McGuffey

By Hardin Soil & Water Conservation District 

The Pilot Watershed Project is out of the starting block and running in Shallow Run. Hardin County’s Shallow Run is a watershed encircling Dunkirk and is the focus of a research effort being led by The Ohio State University and several other universities and public and private partners. The research is designed to examine if applying enough conservation practices in this watershed can create a detectable improvement in water quality. More specifically, can conservation practices reduce phosphorus loss from farm fields?

Each year a green slimy algal bloom develops in Ohio’s Lake Erie impacting water quality. Algae use the phosphorus being delivered to the lake as a food source and cover large areas of the lake and can become toxic in certain situations.  Boaters, charter captains and many residents in the area don’t like that. Lake Erie, annually, is a billion dollar economic asset for the State of Ohio.  Also, the city of Toledo uses water from the lake for its citizens water supply and spends millions of dollars treating water for domestic use. Many look at agriculture as being a major contributor of phosphorus and for the resulting algal bloom.

Hardin County and the Shallow Run watershed are serving as a “research lab” to determine if accelerating conservation practice adoption can improve water quality. To accelerate practice adoption, farmers will be offered significant technical and financial incentives to apply conservation practices over a 5-year period. Water monitoring equipment has already been installed in local streams and ditches to gather data to determine the impact.  

The pilot project is underway and local farmers are already beginning to consider and apply nutrient management practices. Many are developing Nutrient Management Plans to apply fertilizer only when and where it is needed.  To reduce the loss of phosphorus due to surface runoff, several farmers have tried “subsurface placement” equipment to place fertilizers underground. 

The pilot project has both a John Deere shallow placement unit and a new strip till unit built by Rohrs Manufacturing of McGuffey for use by farmers in the project area. The strategy is to place fertilizers below the soil surface where they are tied up in the soil and not leave it on the soil surface where winter and spring rains cause runoff and loss of nutrients.  Several other practices such as grass filter strips, grass field borders, grass waterways and cover crops, wetland and surface inlets are all practices in the water quality improvement arsenal and will be eligible for the special incentives.  

Hardin Soil & Water Conservation District 
12751 SR 309 Kenton OH 43326
419-673-0456 extension 3