LIMA — A farmer from Paulding County says that farmers are just as interested in finding solutions causing algae outbreaks in some of Ohio’s waterways.
Fingers are pointed, often toward farmers, said Terry McClure, a fifth-generation Ohio farmer who owns 3,800 acres in the Grover Hill area. He uses rotational no-till, to not disturb the soil structure with deep plowing. McClure also uses cover crops, plants grown to maintain soil quality. They’re known to reduce runoff and help keep nutrients on the field.
“I think what a lot of people do not realize is farmers do not want nutrients running off of their field,” McClure said. “They are losing money when that happens.”
A study named On Field Ohio is being conducted in the state with the ecological practices on McClure’s farm being one of the test farms. The study is being led by investigator Libby Dayton from Ohio State University.
“Farmers realize they might be a part of the problem,” McClure said. “They want to be part of the solution.”
However, McClure also pointed out that there are many other various factors, and that research is needed to find the true cause.
“One thing I don’t think people realize is that farmers are using a lot less phosphorus than 30 years ago,” McClure said. “However, there is more and more phosphate in the Western Lake Erie Water Basin. It’s going the opposite direction.”
McClure said that farmers are contributing one-half percent of their gross crops to study and education to finding out how levels of dissolved phosphate are spiking despite tougher ecological practices. That has raised so far $1.2 million and the project received another $1 million from a USDA Innovation Grant.
The study costs about $30,000 per site with two sites at each location. Daily samples of water and soil also cost about $40 per sample.
“It’s expensive,” McClure said, “but it is important that we follow through with science-based answers.”
Dwight Clary, an ecological farmer involved with the Sandusky Watershed Coalition, said research is important because it can end the finger-pointing and force a solution.
“We need to attack this from all angles,” Clary said. “We can’t put a finger on what causes it exactly. The rural and urban areas need to work together on this. Everyone tends to point fingers, but when there is a large rain event it becomes everyone’s problem.”
Clary said farmers have reduced dissolved phosphate to about a half-pound to one pound per acre. He said many farmers are now realizing that cover crops are the only answer in preventing that small amount from running off of fields.
As far as the answer of still-increasing numbers, he said finding that answer is key.
“It is the $64,000 question,” Clary said. “Something has changed. When we had a problem with particulate phosphate in the ’90s they were able to find the cause and take care of it. It will take time. We need every component involved and studying this.”
Clary said the cover crop industry is still growing and will continue to play a more influential part of the solution as time passes.