Water management and water quality are the key focus this week for State and National Corn Growers Association staff attending a one of a kind meeting on Put-In-Bay South Bass Island in Lake Erie.
The goal of the Summer Water Quality Meeting is to better understand how algal blooms on the lake became a national story and more importantly how agriculture and its allies are responding, said Tadd Nicholson, Executive Director of the Ohio Corn & Wheat Growers Association.
The heart of the two-day meeting was a tour of Stone Lab, Ohio State University’s research center which is supported and operated by the University in partnership with Ohio Sea Grant program and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The Stone Lab allows researchers to identify plankton, measure chlorophyll content and cyanobacteria toxins which can result from blooms of blue green algae. They also test for nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen which enter the lake from multiple sources such as agriculture, lawn care products, and waste water and sewage from cities.
Dr. Christopher Winslow, Director of Stone Lab, notes the understanding of the algal problem and ways to address it are making positive progress with the tools, technology, and training available to identify, track and minimize occurrences. But teamwork from all potential sources of nutrients is critical to long term success.
Nicholson says Corn Growers role in building awareness and providing education to farmers is already having a significant impact. Knowing which fertilizer source to use, how and when to apply and at what rate is a big first step. This means soil testing is a key component.
Farmers are also developing or tweaking drainage water management plans that uses tools like cover crops and wetlands to contribute to the solution. Nicholson says the team approach, the research and the management techniques used in Ohio to keep Lake Erie viable can likely be adopted in many other watersheds successfully.
CommonGround is a group of farmers connecting with consumers through conversations about science and research and personal stories about food and misinformation surrounding farming. Supported by the NCGA and state corn organizations.
The Soil Health Partnership (SHP) is a farmer-led initiative that fosters transformation in agriculture through improved soil health. Administered by NCGA the partnership has more than 220 working farms enrolled in 16 states. SHP’s mission is to utilize science and data to partner with farmers who are adopting conservation agricultural practices that improve the economic and environmental sustainability of the farm.
The Corn Utilization and Technology Conference (CUTC) is a biennial event happening this June. Learn more.