Water quality studied

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

A representative from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Soil and Water Resources (DSWR) recently gave an update regarding the Western Lake Erie Basin Nutrient Reduction Program.

The state sponsored a $1.5 million grant which looked to address water quality issues caused by excess nutrients from farmland in Henry, Defiance, Hancock, Putnam and Wood counties.

There were four practices available to participants, called best management practice (BMP).

The practices between the five-county area include: BMP 1, variable rate testing nutrient application with cover crops (11,807 total acres); BMP 2, variable rate testing nutrient application with incorporation (15,450 total acres); BMP 3, nutrient application with incorporation (1,212 acres); and BMP 4, control drainage structure (430 structures).

Henry County saw high participation in the program, with a total of 6,707 acres; Defiance County, 1,093 acres; Hancock County, 637 acres; Putnam County, 2,268 acres; and Wood County, 4,012 acres.

The amount of phosophrus and organic matter in local fields was compared to Tri-State fertitility recommendations, which is considered the standard for optimal corn production, and to the NCRS 590 Standard, which determines mobility levels of phosphorus in soil. Based on the Tri-State recommendations, the buildup range is 0-30 pounds of phosphorus per acre; maintenance, 30-60 pounds/acre; drawdown 60-80 pounds/acre; and no application more than 80 pounds/acre.

Justin McBride of ODNR-DSWR said the maintenance range is optimal for crop production.

“At this point, adding any more phosphorus isn’t going to help your yields,” he said.

Based on the NRCS 590 Standard, low potential for phosphrus to leave the soil profile includes less than 80 pounds of phosphrus per acre; moderate potential, 80-200 pounds/acre; high potential, 200-300 pounds/acre; and very high potential, more than 300 pounds per acre.

The district’s goal was to determine how high phosophrus and organic matter levels were in the Lake Erie basin. McBride reviewed data from 2012 BMP 1 and 2 and tested approximately 15,000 acres, 359 fields and 4,811 individual soil samples.

According to the data in terms of phosophrus levels, McBride said approximately 40 percent of the Lake Erie basin is within the “maintenance range.”

“I’m not going to tell you if that’s good or bad, I’m just going to tell you that’s what it is,” he said. “But 55 percent was about the maintenance range - that means phosphorus levels were above what we would like them to be.

“This is only one year’s data so this is a snapshot of what’s going on, I’m optimistic to say it’s getting better,” he added.

Based on Tri-State phosphorus ranges for corn and soybeans for all five counties, most producers were in the buildup range, which is optimal. Based on the results, 5.6 percent were in the buildup range; 40 percent in maintenance; 24.9 percent in drawdown; and 29.5 in no apply. Specifically for Henry County, 1.7 percent were in the buildup range; 34 percent in maintenance; 28 percent in drawdown; and 36.3 in no apply.

“As the presentation explained and the data shows, little to no phosphorus needs to be applied on approximately half of tested fields,” said ODNR public information officer Mark Bruce.

In addition to Henry County producers being the highest participants, Henry County Soil and Water Conservation District Administrator Bob George said numbers may be slightly higher in this area because of the timing of soil tests and the type of crops planted, as some require higher amount of fertilizer than others. George explained producers may have applied fertilizer the year before the test.

“We’re hoping that they see this and they learn from this - it’s an education thing,” George said.

Based on the 590 Standard, which measures potential for movement, majority of the land in the five-county area measured low potential. Low potential was 70.5 percent; moderate potential, 26.6 percent; high potential, 1.8 percent; and very high potential, 1.1 percent. For Henry County, 63.7 percent were in the low potential range; 31.3 percent in moderate potential; 3 percent in high potential; and 1.9 percent in very high potential.

The study also looked at the percentage of organic matter within the soil, and ranges include less than 1 percent up to over 5 percent. For the five-county area, most, including Henry County, were within the 2-3 percent range. For all five counties, less than 1 percent organic matter included .5 percent; 1-2 percent organic matter, 10.5 percent; 2-3 percent organic matter, 41.2 percent; 3-4 percent organic matter, 31 percent; 4-5 percent organic matter, 15.2 percent; and over 5 percent, 1.8 percent.

“Eighty-nine percent were above the 2 percent organic matter (level),” McBride said. “That might be kind of low for this area, but you go anywhere else around the country, out to the West, they would kill to have 2 percent organic matter.”

McBride recommended producers test their soils and make sure phosphorus levels are within proper ranges.

According to ODNR, there are plans to continue testing and expand coverage to include more acrage.

E-mail comments to allison@northwestsignal.net .