Farmer: Microbiology key to healthy lake

First Posted: 9/8/2014

MONTEZUMA — Mercer County farmer Jeff Rasawehr spoke to the Guardians of Grand Lake St. Marys on Monday, saying that his method of farming may be the “silver bullet” concerning fixing algae problems on the lake.

Rasawehr has spoke at several conferences and other venues about his method of ecological farming, and he told the group that the microbiology of the soil is perhaps the key point concerning algae blooms on the lake.

Rasawehr owns a farm on 8820 Kuck Road in rural Celina. The 2,100-acre grain farm has been in the family for four generations. Rasawehr credits its rich soils to incorporated cover crops and interseeding of clover into grain crops. Soybean yields have been revived by incorporating rye to improve the soil while reducing weeds and soybean pests.

He has received a SARE grant to continue his work using cover crops to improve no-till methods and enhance soil nutrient absorption, and is a frequent guest speaker at conferences concerning environmental and clean water issues associated with farming. He has gained notoriety for his clean water discharge from his farm. He said he feels the right thing to do may be getting bypassed because of money.

“There are lots of farmers that mean well,” Rasawehr said. “However, there has been $250 million in subsidies that has been given away just in Mercer County.

“Where there is money there is power,” he added. “when someone has the power to give away taxpayer dollars, they have power. However, this problem can be fixed at no expense.”

Rasawehr said more farmers should be willing to help with the problem and not expect a subsidy. He said his method of farming not only is better for the environment, but it is also more beneficial to farmers, providing better yields. He said farmers lose money when nutrients run off their land. Some tributaries such as Chickasaw Creek had phosphorus levels at more than 27 times the World Health Organization recommended safe levels and nearly 55 times of the recommended levels from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

Rasawehr said science has shown that reducing the selection of certain toxic components can reduce the damage to the soil biology. He said that millions of creatures, such as earthworms, live in the soil.

For example, he said farmers can sustain soil biology by feeding the microbes an exudation off a steady and diverse set of plants species such as a variety of cover crops for the fallow period, which is fall through spring. “He said farmers should adapt no-till methods and that most types of mechanical tillage are destructive to microbiology.

Bill Ringo, treasurer of the Guardians, said the group is just simply looking for the truth.

“Contrary to what some people might say, we are pro-farmer,” Ringo said. “They have applied a lot of programs, but the result is the problem is still worse. Some people are blaming lawns and geese, but that is not common sense. We are hungry for knowledge because we want to tell the truth.”

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