BOWLING GREEN, Ohio — With 1,500 acres of corn, soybean and wheat in the Portage and Maumee watersheds, Paul Herringshaw was definitely aware when a harmful algal bloom (HAB) fouled Toledo’s drinking water last week. Citizens were advised not to drink the water for three days.
"We all understand the importance of clean water," he said. "Because of our concern for the need for clean water, we’ve been doing a lot of things in the agricultural community to make sure that we’re doing our part in keeping the water clean."
Edge-of-field research to learn how phosphorous moves across fields to waterways, being carried out by Dr. Libby Davis at The Ohio State University, was funded by agriculture, Herringshaw said. The Healthy Water Ohio Initiative, a collaborative effort of agricultural groups, is working to develop a long-term strategic plan to help keep Ohio waters clean as well as to maintain the economic viability of agriculture.
Some time ago he implemented the use of GPS and variable rate technology on his farm. "I’ve been slowly working my farm into the point that now I will get a soil sample on my fields every two acres," Herringshaw said.
"Working with my local retail outlet, we use variable rate technology to get the right amount of fertilizer where it is needed. I’ve been surprised at some of the results."
He has been spending about the same amount of money, but the fertilizer is only being applied when and where it is needed.
Agricultural retailers are getting behind the "Four Rs," or the right amount of fertilizer, the right kind of fertilizer, in the right place at the right time – and as more farmers become educated that will improve the situation, he said.
"Farmers have been reducing the amount of nutrients that they have been using for over 30 years," Herringshaw added. "We met the challenge some time ago to clean up Lake Erie with the phosphorous load back in the 1970s. We’ve been using less phosphorous fertilizer. We’ve been changing and adapting as we go along."