Workshop to Spotlight Whole-system Solutions to Nutrient Runoff, Water Issues

Satellite photo of Great Lakes with algal blooms

Editor: Registration for the workshop is full, but media members are welcome to attend. Please contact Andy Ward, 614-292-9354,, in advance to make arrangements.

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A first-ever workshop in Ohio is bringing together farmers, scientists and other stakeholders to discuss whole-system solutions to the Midwest’s nutrient runoff and water problems.

Organizers say the Sept. 14-16 program, called Healthy Soils for Healthy Waters, will focus on state-of-the-art best management practices for reducing fertilizer runoff into the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins. The two basins include all of Ohio and most of the Midwest.

“By synthesizing the wealth of knowledge that exists across these regions, we’ll be able to identify what it will take to prevent excess nutrients in our water resources while sustaining agricultural productivity and the economic viability of farming,” said co-organizer Andy Ward, professor of agricultural engineering in Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

Experts say excess agricultural runoff of phosphorus, for example, is a cause of the harmful algal blooms plaguing Lake Erie and other water bodies. In August, a toxic bloom in western Lake Erie led to a two-day drinking water ban in Toledo.

CFAES is sponsoring the workshop with support from Greenleaf Advisors, Gypsoil and the North Central Region Water Network. CFAES Dean Bruce McPheron will give the opening welcome.

Among the workshop’s participants will be 100 invited top researchers and representatives from government agencies, the agricultural community and environmental groups.

Ward said the program will be organized around 16 “data-driven, region-specific” case studies currently underway on corn and soybean farms in both regions, including in the Maumee River watershed, Lake Erie’s largest tributary. The studies are testing possible new practices.

Breakout sessions and panel discussions will feature experts from CFAES, Greenleaf Advisors, Purdue University, the University of Illinois, the University of Wisconsin, The Nature Conservancy, AGree and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to name a few. A complete list of speakers is at

Ward said the idea for the workshop started with Greenleaf Advisors President John Andersen and “evolved from discussions with organizations concerned with harmful algal blooms and hypoxia and the promising results Warren Dick is obtaining by using gypsum as a soil amendment.” Hypoxia refers to low-oxygen “dead zones” that have appeared, for instance, in Lake Erie.

Dick is a CFAES soil biochemistry professor who, in tests in the Maumee watershed, is seeing 40- to 70-percent reductions in soluble phosphorus runoff after applying gypsum to farm fields.

“Consistent with this work, I believe that making environmental systems more self-sustaining and using a systems approach will lead to robust, end-to-end solutions,” Ward said.

The first two days of the workshop will be at the Crowne Plaza hotel in downtown Columbus.

Participants will spend the third day of the workshop seeing new technology and field demonstrations at CFAES’s Farm Science Review, a major agricultural trade show running Sept. 16-18 in London, Ohio, about 30 miles west of Columbus.

Ward said this year’s workshop will set the stage for an annual symposium series focused on excess nutrients, water quality and the ongoing case studies.

The series’ first symposium is set for May 18-21, 2015, in Columbus, hosted by Ohio State and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. The event will be held in conjunction with meetings of the Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force and a new central U.S. land-grant university nutrient management task force.

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CFAES News Team
For more information, contact: 

Andy Ward