In the past few months, several news articles have questioned why our streams, rivers and lakes are having algae blooms. Several articles place the blame only on agriculture enterprises. However, everything is not so black and white. When growing up in New York State in the ’60s, the blame was placed squarely on phosphates in laundry detergent and soaps and on lawn fertilization. In the ’70s, emphasis was on cleaning up the septic waste and runoff. Recently the burden has been placed on the farmer fields with an emphasis on manure application and fertilizer rates. In the past few years blame has been placed on global warming and the resulting droughts and floods. All of these aspects are part of the blame and reducing their effects may help us improve our water resources.
The key is to look into the various points outlining how we can clean up our water supply, whether we are a farmer, homeowner or renter. Over the next several years, farmers will be working to improve their implementation of the goals of 4R Nutrient Stewardship strategies to maximize economic productivity and limit offsite nutrient losses that cost both the grower pocketbook and society. The 4 R’s include: ‘right’ rate to meet crop needs and minimize offsite movement, ‘right’ source selected for location and timing of application, ‘right’ time based on source and crop needs and ‘right’ placement so the nutrients are available to the crop and stay on site. The 4 Rights are interconnected and work with each other in the overall agronomic production system.
My colleagues at OSU suggest the following 4R Principles: “ Determine the right rate of phosphorus, potassium and lime, by collecting a representative soil test. The investment in a representative soil testing program is well worth the expense. Once a rate is determined, attention needs to be given to source, placement and timing of the nutrient. In Ohio, both phosphorous and nitrogen are nutrients that can have offsite consequences to water quality. They need to be kept in place from an economic standpoint for the crop you want to grow. No sense sending dollars down the ditch. Whether phosphorus is from a commercial fertilizer or organic source such as manure, broadcast surface applications have the greatest risk of offsite movement. High phosphorous levels in tributary water samples seemed to coincide with periods where broadcast fertilizer applications occurred followed by rainfall events. Shallow incorporation tends to reduce phosphorous losses has been shown during rainfall simulator studies. However, caution is warranted to tillage practices that increase soil exposure and erosion losses. Alternatives such as row starter fertilizer or strip tillage should be considered in erosion loss situations.”
Homeowners and renters look at your fertilizer practices in the home garden, landscape and lawn area. You will notice this year when buying lawn fertilizers that several national companies have eliminated or reduced phosphorus levels in the fertilizer bag. (Phosphorus is the middle number on the label of a fertilizer bag). Look at whether you garden needs fertilizer and what type to improve your yield but minimize your effect on the watershed. Plan this year to take a soil sample to minimize excessive applications of nutrients. Our extension office can give information as to how to take a soil sample (AGF 513-12 Soil Sampling to Develop Nutrient Recommendations, www.ohioline.osu.edu) and if delivered to our office with fifteen dollars we can send it away and get a recommendation from an Ohio soil test lab. Become actively involved as a citizen in what you can do to improve the environment.
Are you interested in growing produce in a high tunnel (unheated polyhouse) to get a jump start to producing and selling vegetables at a farmers’ market? Rural Action is hosting a day-long Season Creation Workshop on February 21 at Green Edge Organic Farms in Amesville Ohio. The class starts at 10 a.m. looking at the construction of a high tunnel, production methods and matching market demand to planting requirements. Green Edge, is a successful agricultural business that sells via a CSA ( Community Supported Agriculture) clientele, local farmer markets and restaurants in the region. Workshop space is limited. For further details contact Tom Redfern at 740-767-4938 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Private pesticide applicators, if you need the three hours of re-certification credit, four opportunities will be locally available to you. January 28 from 10 a.m. -1 p.m. and a repeat from 6-9 p.m. at the Meigs County Extension office , call 740-992-6696 to reserve a spot. January 31 from 1-4 p.m. at the Athens County Extension office , call 740-593-8555. February 26 starting at 5:30 p.m. at the Gallia County Extension office, call 740-446-7007. If you need to obtain a license or receive additional categories, please contact the Meigs County office as they are attempting to schedule a local test date and site. To obtain additional private pesticide applicator information go to the website pested.osu.edu.
Hal Kneen is the Athens/Meigs Counties Agriculture & Natural Resources Educator, Ohio State University Extension.