Runoff reduction in action PDF Print E-mail
Written by BILL RYAN Sentinel Farm Editor   
Thursday, 08 August 2013 10:06
James Zehringer (middle), director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources talks with Mike Emch, owner of Emch Farms in between Perrysburg and BG, while State Senator Randy Gardner looks on. (Photos: Kristen Norman/Sentinel-Tribune)
Mike Emch has been farming for decades, but recently participated in a project through the Ohio Department of Natural Resources for farmers in five counties to reduce runoff of chemicals into Lake Erie.
Algae bloom has been a problem in recent years in Lake Erie with agricultural chemicals being one of many contributing factors.
Emch, who farms between Bowling Green and Perrysburg, is one of 350 area farmers who has received funding through the Ohio Clean Lakes Initiative which will provide nearly $2.5 million to assist in solving the issues. 
Local media were invited to the Emch farm on Wednesday to learn more about the initiative and how he has successfully used the funds to improve his crops while at the same time reducing chemical usage.
Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director James Zehringer, State Senator Randy Gardner and State Representative Tim Brown all spoke to those gathered before turning the details of the program over to Ed Crawford, a specialist with ODNR in the Findlay office.
Zehringer explained that farming practices are changing. He spoke of how despite its advantages, no-till farming does have some challenges such as assuring their are enough nutrients for the crops.
"Farmers have always adapted to change," Zehringer said.
Cover crops are growing in use, and Emch planted his corn crop into cereal rye and the result was an apparent bumper crop that served as a backdrop for Wednesday's meeting.
The Wood County farmer and others used some of the technological funding to create a nutrient map of his field. Once that map was created, a special planter supplied by Luckey Farmers plugged a data chip into the high-tech equipment. With two separate boxes and the use of GPS and the nutrient map, the application was made and thus used less chemicals on the field.
"We always used to go out and put the same amount of fertilizer on the fields, year after year," Emch said.
With this technology, he was able to apply the nutrients only where it was needed.
"I had heard about this program from other growers, so I thought I would try it," he said. "We're giving the corn crop what it needs without over applying."
Because his farm received funding last year, he will not be eligible for funds this year, but he plans to continue the practices on his own as he has seen the economic and environmental benefits.
"These practices save money on fertilizer and there is definitely a pay off," Emch added.
Ron Snyder, another area grower, was on hand and explained how he has used radishes as a cover crop as well.
'"It really breaks up compaction," Snyder said.
In addition to the compaction, cover crops can also help to bring nutrients to the surface where the main crop can use it. This is a vital tool to supplement no-till farming.
What the program, backed by Gardner and others, did is to provide some to help farmers to employ the best management practices including the use of the "Four R" theory of applying the Right fertilizer source at the Right rate, at the Right time and in the Right place.
James Zehringer (middle), director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, talks with Ron Snyder, farmer and supervisor of Wood SWCD, and State Representative Tim Brown at Emch Farms in Perrysburg, Ohio.
The funding assisted with the cost of soil testing and the cover crop and proper fertilization incorporation. The funding also purchased 430 control drainage structures across the five counties served by the program. In addition Wood, the program also serves Henry, Hancock, Defiance and Putnam counties.
The drainage structures are connected to the drainage tile system which can be closed off to maintain the moisture in the fields as needed. These structures will assist in minimizing phosphorous and other runoff from entering the waterways which empty into Lake Erie.
Gardner noted how Lake Erie was in a major crisis in the 1960s and '70s.
"Agriculture was part of the solution, then, and agriculture has accepted its role as it can be part of the solution, now," the state senator said.
He and others noted, however, that agriculture is only one part of the factors contributing to the algae bloom in the lake. Municipal water and sewage discharges are another major contributor, as well.
He added this program is also providing some good data which will be beneficial down the road.
Gardner noted that it is also important that the agriculture economy remains strong as well, and thus this program, helps achieve both goals.
Brown shared how this is an important issue in many ways, including to keep Ohio's $7 billion travel and tourism economy viable. He shared how the charter boats, fishing and recreational businesses involved with Lake Erie contribute much to that industry.
"At a very difficult time in Ohio's budget, Randy stepped up and said, 'Look, this is an investment in the future of Ohio,'" Brown said of his counterpart in the state legislature.
Crawford noted there is a waiting list of farmers for the ongoing funding of this project; however, all of those who spoke know how the farming community will continue to adapt and incorporate the best management practices on their acres.
"This is all voluntary and farmers like Mike (Emch) are seeing what's going and saving money without having regulations legislated for them," Crawford said.
"The farming community is smart enough to know what to do," Zehringer added. "The farmers are doing a great job and always have."
Last Updated on Thursday, 08 August 2013 10:10

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