The Press Newspaper

Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

The Press Newspaper

Saving Lake Erie

For a chemical element discovered in the 17th century, phosphorus can still be puzzling for researchers tracking it from farm fields to tributaries of Lake Erie where it plays an integral role in the formation of harmful algal blooms.

For years – well before the algal bloom of 2011, described by some as the largest in the lake in decades - growers in Northwest Ohio have been adopting conservation measures to reduce run-off from farm fields.

Farm Service Agency offices in six local counties report enrollments are up during the past decade in a voluntary program that pays growers to convert cropland into filter strips along ditches and streams.

• In Fulton County, filter strip acreage has grown steadily, from 56 acres on 15 farms in 2004 to 559 acres last year on 158 farms.

• Lucas County, west of the Maumee River, has also recorded an increase from 15 acres in 2004 to 59 acres last year on 24 farms,

• In Wood County, filter strips covered nearly 3,000 acres on 679 farms last year, compared to 256 acres on 75 farms in 2004.

Former Oregon City Councilman Bill Myers wears two hats — he farms 2,000 acres on fields located three-quarters of a mile from the Lake Erie shoreline. He is also vice president of the Lake Erie Waterkeeper Association and president of the Lucas County Farm Bureau.

As a result, Myers has firm beliefs about protecting the environment and an interest in making sure the agricultural industry is considered if new policies are adopted.

Myers attended the Lake Erie Improvement Association forum last December to hear experts discuss invasive algal blooms. Scientists from universities across the Great Lakes recommended implementing new policies that would lead to a 40 percent reduction of algae-feeding phosphorus into the lake.

Researchers say most of the phosphorus is coming from fertilizer and manure runoff from farm fields. Improved tiling and water drainage systems move fertilizer and legacy phosphorus through the watershed faster.



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