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Tools for Reducing Phosphorus in the Portage and Toussaint Watersheds

The U.S. EPA recently announced a series of grants from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative that will address both invasive species and excess nutrients in the lakes. TMACOG has been awarded nearly $500,000 to help farmers in Wood and Ottawa counties reduce the amount of nutrients that migrate from their fields to nearby waterways.

Cameron Davis, a senior advisor in the Great Lakes National Program Office of the U.S. EPA, congratulated TMACOG on the successful application. He said, “Local government has a large role to play in the recovery of the Great Lakes. With your authority and convening power, you can get attention the way regulators cannot.”

The TMACOG grant applies to farms in the watersheds of the Portage and Toussaint rivers in Wood and Ottawa counties. Farmers who grow row crops can apply for assistance to use three strategies that are known to reduce the amount of phosphorous reaching waterways.

Variable Rate Treatment. VRT measures nutrients present in the soil and then delivers only the amount of fertilizer necessary for optimum yield. Under the terms of the grant farmers will test in a three-acre grid. The information is mapped in a GIS system and linked to the application of fertilizer. With the cost of soil tests, many farmers test only once in a 40-acre field or don’t do soil tests at all. The tight grid will allow precise application of needed nutrients. Less excess nutrients flow off the land when the correct amount is applied and taken up by the plants.

Cover Crops. Following harvest, a bare farm field can be a significant source of excess nutrients that wash off the dirt in rain storms or with snow melt. A cover crop of legumes (often clover or hairy vetch), grasses, or brassicas (canola, mustards, radishes) will stabilize the soil and also take up residual nitrogen in the soil.

Water Control Structures. In northwest Ohio, in the Great Black Swamp area, most farm fields have tiles to drain excess water. A water control structure can be as simple as a valve in the tile that dams the water. Water can be held back during heavy rain, stored, and released later to be taken up by plant roots.

Farmers who are interested in the program can apply immediately to their county Soil & Water Conservation District in Ottawa or Wood County.

The other grant recipient in northwest Ohio was the University of Toledo which will study invasive species by monitoring stock at bait shops and pond stocking sales points.

Gordon Bowman, mayor of Pemberville and chair
of TMACOG’s Portage River Basin Council, reviews
notes with Cam Davis, senior advisor at the U.S. EPA.

Jim Sass, former chair of TMACOG and Ottawa County farmer,
talks with Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur at the grant announcement.

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