OSU Extension efforts on water quality and nutrient management

Water quality and nutrient management issues are getting more and more attention these days. With additional regulatory measures being debated in the state legislature, it seems that everyone has an idea about how to ‘fix’ the algal blooms in Lake Erie and across Ohio. And not surprisingly, the ‘fix’ depends on who you ask.

The reality is that addressing nutrient management issues across the state is a complex and difficult task, as excessive nutrients come from a variety of different sources. But the work is increasingly important and relevant as the debate intensifies. Ohio State University Extension is working on many fronts to address nutrient management across the state and to work toward better use of nutrients, cleaner water and increased farmer profitability. (And yes, these three things can all peacefully coexist.) Here are a few examples of the work we are doing.

Education: OSU Extension remains committed to educating farmers in nutrient management stewardship. OSU Extension has been tasked by the Ohio Department of Agriculture to develop and run the new Agricultural Fertilizer Certification Training. The goal is to have all fertilizer applicators trained in a 2 or 3 hour course over the next 3 years. With an estimated 12,000 eligible fertilizer applicators needing training, this is a major undertaking and a mostly thankless job. Initial trainings have been successful and farmers that I’ve talked with have acknowledged the quality program and valuable information this training has provided. In addition to this training, OSU Extension hosts a wide variety of winter meetings and field days incorporating nutrient management into their programming.

Research: Numerous scientists at Ohio State and elsewhere are actively conducting research to address nutrient management issues. University researchers, field specialists, county educators, farmers, commodity groups and other stakeholders have forged partnerships to find research-based solutions to a range of nutrient issues. These areas include edge-of-field studies, farmer perceptions and behavior about nutrient management, controlled drainage structures to manage water more effectively, and building better models to predict nutrient runoff. In my lab, which focuses on agronomic soil fertility, we are working to update fertilizer recommendations in agronomic crops, by conducting field trials on farmers’ fields across the state over the next several years. (Please contact me at culman.2@osu.edu if you are interested in participating.) We also have three corn-soybean field trials with multiple rates of P and K across the state. These trials are going into their tenth year and will help confirm and strengthen the research findings from farmers’ fields. In addition, numerous county educators conduct soil fertility trials throughout the state.

Although this list isn’t exhaustive, it provides a taste of what OSU Extension is actively working on to improve water quality in the state. For more information on how you can help work toward ‘fixing’ this issue, please contact your local OSU Extension county educator.

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