This page contains a Flash digital edition of a book.
CROPS Ohio’s Country Journal

From page 1 “The Maumee River annual loading

of dissolved reactive phosphorus steadily dropped until mid-90s and has sharply risen since then and we don’t know why. There is no smoking gun,” Antosch said. “We don’t have the answers yet, but it is hard from a political standpoint to tell people that we need 5 or 10 years to research this problem.” Antosch can only speculate about the

long-term implications for agricultural fertilizer applications. “Possible recommendations could

include no winter application, no broad- cast applications, certification to apply nutrients, and even a moratorium on new tile installation,” he said. “So what does this all mean? There has been a lot of discussion on this, but we could be moving away from voluntary and toward mandatory. We need to watch this to maintain our ability to farm.” It is important to note that the prob-

lem is the result of many factors, and that agriculture is one of many contrib- utors, but there is no single solution to addressing the complex problem. “You can’t deny that ag has a big

part to play in the phosphorus issues in the Lake. There are other sources that have responsibility for this as well, but there is no denying that ag plays a part in this,” said Todd Hesterman, a farmer from Henry County and Conservation Action Project member in northwest Ohio. “There are a lot of commonsense things that we have learned, such as not applying manure or fertilizer on snow- covered, frozen ground, especially if there is any rain in the forecast. You have to look at this as a systems approach and you can’t ignore using the right tool for the right job. Vice grips don’t work for every application when you’re working on a piece of equip- ment. You have to hone in on what is actually happening on your farm in your soils and in your situation.” Addressing water quality problems

will require a number of different tools moving forward. “Being site specific on where you get

your soil samples and getting a good representative sample is very important. You have to pay a lot more attention to the details. The days of taking one sam- ple to represent 40 acres are gone,” Hesterman said. “Stratification and the movement of nutrients in the soil also have to be taken into consideration when you talk about soil samples.” Nutrient application will also likely

be changing. “I think the days of broadcasting fer-

tilizer without some kind of incorpora- tion are done,” Hesterman said. “Cover crops can be used to incorporate materi-

als. Strip-till has been considered as well for banding. We actually may go back to putting fertilizer attachments on our planters and banding when we plant to feed the crop right when it needs it. That is the way we used to do things and we may need to take another look at that.” While there are factors to consider,

there is still much that needs to be learned in terms of shaping hard and fast recommendations (or regulations) on addressing the problem. “We know what the issue is, but we

don’t know how to solve it. We need research on this. Environmental groups are just saying, ‘Well, stop using phos- phorus.’ We know we can’t do that,” said Glen Arnold, with Ohio State University Extension. “We’re using less phosphorus than we ever have before, but the amount of dissolved phospho- rus is going up. Even though we are using less, more is getting away from us. And it is not a lot of phosphorus that we’re losing in terms of the total amount applied, but we have got to get it under control. Just a quarter of a pound of loss per acre can make a big difference.” The current problem is the dissolved

form of phosphorus that can move with the water through surface drainage or through tile lines. “A pretty good chunk of that phos-

phorus is going out of the tile,” Arnold said. “Rainfall, tile, incorporation, sur- face roughness, vegetative buffers, con- centrated flow areas, waterways, crop residue, tillage, and the location of nutri- ents applied all affect the movement of nutrients off fields. We really want water to absorb into the ground if at all possi- ble. Frozen ground and heavy rain are perfect conditions for big losses of nutri- ents. Currently there are no proposed regulatory changes for the state, but it is critical for farmers to use commonsense, follow good manure testing, follow soil testing agronomic recommendations, and keep good records.” The 4R phosphorus recommenda-

tions for putting the right source, at the right rate, in the right place at the right time have been among the few formal recommendations on this issue. The 4Rs are easy to highlight, but much harder to actually implement. “No matter what you do, there are

times where there will be run-off and enough water to lose dissolved phos- phorus,” said Tom Bruulsema, with the International Plant Nutrition Institute. “Even with great practices like water- ways and buffer strips, if water is flow- ing right through, the dissolved phos- phorus is moving right along with the water. The 4Rs are very simple to say and a lot harder to do. What is ‘right?’

There are still more questions than answers about managing the algae problem in Lake Erie.

The 4Rs take place in the context of the cropping system.”

Right source “Science has shown that all plants

require 17 essential nutrients and we need to apply plant available forms in the amounts needed. We need to credit nutrients from composts and manure for phosphorus and choose a source that you can get placed in the soil rather than on top of the soil,” Bruulsema said.

Right rate The right rate comes from assessing

the nutrient supply in soil with soil tests to make sure the crop demand will be met. It is very important to get a repre- sentative soil sample. Some agronomists suggest moving toward yield zone- or soil type-based soil sampling systems rather than grid systems to improve accuracy and reliability of soil tests.

Right time It is important to apply when the risk

of run-off is low. When phosphorus fer- tilizer is left on the soil surface, any rainfall that results in run-off in the next several weeks can result in losses of the fertilizer. “You can spilt applications for sandy

soils, do more scouting and tissue sam- pling to improve timing,” Bruulsema said. “Cover crops do capture extra nutrients to help with the timing of fall applications, though there is not much evidence for benefits of cover crops with the loss of dissolved phosphorus.”

Right place The right place for nutrients is where

they are accessible for the crop. For phosphorus, this is not broadcast on the surface.

“Apply nutrients in field manage-

ment zones based upon soil survey information and band, inject or incorpo- rate,” Bruulsema said. “When I think about phosphorus loss in the Lake Erie Western Basin, the greatest volume of run-off is likely coming form the flat, heavy clay soils of northwest Ohio. These are also likely the soils that receive fall broadcast phosphorus.” The 4Rs become even more chal-

lenging when considering the wide range of soil types, structure and management systems. “There is a lot of difference in soil

structure out there. Poor soil conditions allow for a lot of quick run-off,” said Joe Nester, with Nester Ag Management in northwest Ohio. “There have been some darts thrown at no-till and I don’t necessarily buy that. There is also talk of a moratorium on tile and that would be the wrong way to go. Tile cre- ates a much better environment to pro- duce a crop that removes the nutrients that are there. Once water moves through it brings air into the soil and we have to make sure that tile doesn’t get evaluated poorly here. It is a matter of risk verses benefit. This is extremely complex. You can’t just take a chart and say, ‘Do this.’ The soil is a living thing and if you manage it that way you will be better off.” But ultimately, changes will be

coming to the way farms are managed in Ohio. “Rate, and timing of application will

be regulated and blanket applications will not be allowed in the future,” Nester said. “You can say, ‘This can’t happen,’ but it is happening and this is an opportunity for agriculture to do something.”

Ohio’s Country Journal • • April 2012 • Crops 15

Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44