A soil scientist with Ohio State University's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences is in the midst of a three-year, $2 million project to keep more nutrients and water on farm fields as part of an effort to improve the state's water quality. Researcher Elizabeth Dayton's On-Field Ohio project is designed to offer growers more options to reduce agricultural runoff in Ohio waters by revising the current U.S. Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service Ohio Phosphorus (P) Risk Index to better predict the risk of phosphorus moving off farm fields.
Her goal is to make the phosphorus index, which is now used in all nutrient management plans, more accurate by increasing management options for farmers to reduce phosphorus runoff; and to create a Web-based tool so farmers can easily calculate and manage their phosphorus runoff.
Because the Ohio Phosphorus Risk Index is used by farmers statewide in developing nutrient management plans for both manure and commercial fertilizer application, it is important that the index be as accurate an indicator as possible, Dayton says.
"We know a lot, but we don't know how good is good, so taking a more comprehensive look at how each management practice works on a specific field under real-world conditions will allow us to better quantify how well those practices can work for growers statewide," she said. "The feedback we have received from the farming community is that they are ready, willing and eager to be a part of the solution."
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The project is funded through a $1 million USDA Conservation Innovation Grant and $1 million in matching donations from Ohio agriculture groups.
The project involves setting up water sampling equipment on 32 sites across Ohio farms that grow wheat, corn and soybeans to sample surface and subsurface runoff to determine how much phosphorus is leaving the field, and how different soils and management practices affect the amount of phosphorus in runoff.
Phosphorus available to plants during a growing season, former management practices and soil physical properties are also being evaluated on each study site, Dayton says.
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