COLUMBUS, Ohio — Agriculture and water quality flow together. So do Ohio’s efforts to improve them.
The next Environmental Professionals Network (EPN) breakfast program will look at those ties and at new progress in serving the state’s farmers, food and water.
The event, which is open to the public, is Sept. 12 at The Ohio State University.
Food and agriculture combined are Ohio’s No. 1 industry, adding more than $105 billion to the state’s economy every year, according to the Ohio Department of Agriculture.
But that industry also is a contributor to the harmful algal blooms that have plagued Lake Erie and other Ohio water bodies in recent years. Phosphorus runoff from fertilizer and manure can help fuel the pea-green, sometimes-toxic blooms, which can hurt tourism, property values and drinking water safety.
The event, which is called “Agriculture and Water Quality Issues: OSU Research and Agency Initiatives Guide Farmers’ Solutions,” will feature these speakers:
- Cathann A. Kress, who became Ohio State’s vice president for agricultural administration and dean of its College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) in May.
- Libby Dayton, research scientist in CFAES’s School of Environment and Natural Resources (SENR) who leads a phosphorus-monitoring project called On-Field Ohio.
- Kirk Hines, chief of the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s (ODA) Division of Soil and Water Conservation.
Training 16,000 farmers in best fertilizer practices
Kress came to Ohio State from Iowa State University, where she was vice president for extension and outreach. Her college, among its water quality efforts, is delivering Ohio’s Fertilizer Applicator Certification Training, or FACT, program, which at last count has trained more than 16,000 Ohio farmers and others on best practices for applying fertilizer and manure. The practices are meant to keep farms productive and profitable while reducing nutrient runoff.
The FACT program was established in 2014 by Senate Bill 150 after a toxic algal bloom in western Lake Erie shut down Toledo’s drinking water supply for two days that year. It’s done in conjunction with ODA.
How much phosphorus is running off?
Dayton’s On-Field Ohio project, which has multiple partners, is monitoring phosphorus runoff at more than two dozen Ohio farm fields, including some in western Lake Erie’s watershed. The findings will be used to update the Ohio Phosphorus Risk Index, which farmers use to figure out how much fertilizer to spread.
Hines’ division at ODA, among its duties, implements agricultural and nonpoint source water pollution control programs. Nonpoint source water pollution comes from rain and snow runoff and the pollutants it picks up from the ground, including phosphorus, nitrogen and eroded soil. Point source pollution, on the other hand, comes from a single source, or “point,” like a factory pipe.
The event is from 7:15 to 9:30 a.m. in Ohio State’s Nationwide and Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center, 2201 Fred Taylor Drive, on the university’s Columbus campus.
Register by Sept. 8
Registration, which includes breakfast and a parking pass, is $10 for members of the network and the public and free for Ohio State students. The registration deadline is Sept. 8. Details and a link to register online are at go.osu.edu/Sept2017EPN.
SENR organizes the nearly 2,000-member network as a public service. Membership is free and open to anyone studying or working in an environmental field.
Also ahead in the network’s breakfast series is “Privatizing Public Drinking Water Utilities: Can the Public’s Interest Still be Protected?” on Oct. 10.