NEW OHIO STATE PROGRAM HELPS KEEP PHOSPHORUS ON FIELDS, IMPROVE WATER QUALITY

Source: Ohio State University news release

Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences is ramping up its efforts to improve Ohio’s water quality through a new fertilizer applicator certification training program that’s designed to help growers increase crop yields using less fertilizer more efficiently, thus reducing the potential for phosphorus runoff into the state’s watersheds.

Introduced last month as part of Ohio’s new agricultural fertilization law, the program has already trained 777 Ohio growers who farm some 522,250 acres of farmland statewide, said Greg LaBarge, an Ohio State University Extension field specialist and one of the leaders of Ohio State’s Agronomic Crops Team. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the college.

Offering the certification training program is part of the college’s goal to improve the state’s water quality by informing growers how to lessen the use of phosphorus and keep more of it on the field, while increasing crop yields and boosting farm profits, LaBarge said.

“The training covers water quality and crop production best management practices, including encouraging growers to adhere to the principles of applying the right fertilizer at the right rate at the right time and in the right place,” he said. “By advocating the continued improvement in nutrient use and efficiencies, the training can help growers boost farm profits by using just enough nutrients to maximize yield, which reduces the potential for water quality impact offsite.

“The training benefits farmers and Ohioans by reducing the water quality issues that we have in the state.”

Experts say soluble phosphorus runoff from farms is an important source of harmful algal blooms plaguing Lake Erie and other lakes in recent years. In August, a toxic bloom in western Lake Erie led to a two-day drinking water ban in Toledo.

The training, which is offered by OSU Extension agronomists in partnership with the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA), fulfills the education requirements of the state’s new agricultural nutrients law, which requires farmers who apply fertilizer to more than 50 acres of farmland to become certified with ODA.

According to the new law, the deadline for growers and chemical nutrient applicators to complete the certification process is Sept. 30, 2017. The certification is valid for three years, at which point the applicator will require recertification.

The training offers guidance on:

* The Nutrient Management Certification program.

* The link between phosphorus, harmful algal blooms and agriculture.

* Soil testing for confidence and adaptive management.

* Best management practices for phosphorus.

* Yield and water quality impacts.

* Best management practices for nitrogen, yield and water quality impacts.

An overwhelming majority of participants who have completed the OSU Extension program, 89 percent, say the training improved their knowledge about nutrient management, LaBarge said.

Additionally, 77 percent of farmers in attendance agreed that “Farm field phosphorus loss is a significant problem to Ohio water resources,” he said.

A majority of those participating in the first training classes, which were held in Fulton, Hancock and Paulding counties last month, farm in the Maumee River watershed area that drains into Lake Erie.

In fact, most farmers in that area are willing to take at least one additional action to reduce nutrient loss on their farm if they feel like the action will both benefit their farms as well as water quality, according to new research from Robyn Wilson, a CFAES associate professor of risk analysis and decision science.

“Most farmers are willing to adopt a new conservation practice if they believe that nutrient loss from their fields will have a negative financial impact on their crop production and if they believe that if they put best management practices in place on their farms, the techniques will work,” Wilson said.

More training dates for farmers and nutrient applicators to obtain the educational requirement for the Agricultural Fertilizer Applicator Certification will be offered by OSU Extension, with sessions likely to be offered in December and in the early months of 2015, LaBarge said.

As sessions are scheduled, details will be posted online at pested.osu.edu/NutrientEducation/.

Participants will be required to preregister for these meetings.

For more information, contact LaBarge at 740-223-4040 or labarge.1@osu.edu.

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