Mississippi River Basin Conservation Network – Confluence

Confluence is a newsletter produced by the University of Arkansas, the University of Wisconsin and a consortium of twelve land-grant universities. It is a source of information on agricultural practices and nutrient reduction strategies. The Mississippi River Basin Conservation Network is home to the Confluence newsletter. Mike Daniels, PhD and Rebecca Power co-edit the newsletter. Dr. Andy Ward summarized the objectives and comments from participants of the September 2014 Healthy Soils for Healthy Waters Workshop. Please read his article on the Workshop at the Confluence website...

Healthy Soils for Healthy Water conference a success

Monday, September 15, marked the kickoff of the first in a series Healthy Soil for Healthy Water conferences, co-sponsored by Greenleaf Advisors and The Ohio State University. Over 100 representatives of academia, industry, agencies, non-profits and, critically, farmers and agricultural representatives were in attendance for a day of collaborative integration of research and practices. Keynote  speakers Bruce McPheron of OSU and Karl Gebhart from the Ohio EPA were accompanied by presentations from groups like the US EPA, The Nature Conservancy, and NOAA. Coming close on the heels of the Toledo municipal drinking-water system shutdown last month, this event was welcomed as extremely timely and relevant to one of the most pressing environmental issues of the day. Feedback was that the event was packed with excellent research, tempered with the understanding that there is no easy path to solving the problem of agricultural nutrient pollution in the Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds. However, this event was an important step towards the development of true interdisciplinary and collaborative best management practices that will identify the right combination of technologies for the right times and places to have the biggest benefit to farmers, communities, and the environment. To learn more about the recent workshop or to become involved in future conferences, please contact Dr. Andy Ward (ward.2@osu.edu) with Ohio State University or John Andersen (jandersen@greenleafadvisors.net) with Greenleaf Advisors....

Using an Ancient Approach to Farming to Address Lake Erie’s Modern Problems

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Using an Ancient Approach to Farming to Address Lake Erie’s Modern Problems Columbus, Ohio – August 5, 2014 – Although the phosphorus that contributed to the ban on drinking tap water for most of Toledo’s residents this weekend came from many sources, most experts will point to agricultural runoff as the primary culprit. Gypsum, or Calcium Sulfate, is a relatively common mineral that has been used in agriculture for thousands of year to improve soil conditions and crop growth; Benjamin Franklin is credited with bringing the practice to America. Recently, gypsum has come back into focus not only to help farmers support their livelihoods, but also to assist their stewardship of the land and the impact their practices have on the surrounding waterways. Research led by Dr. Warren Dick, a professor of soil and environmental chemistry with the Ohio State University Department of Environment and Natural Resources, studies gypsum as a tool to directly address the problem of excess phosphorus leaving Ohio’s corn and soybean fields. This study, now in its second year, applies calcium sulfate directly to fields in the Maumee River watershed, currently the largest single contributor of phosphorus in Lake Erie.  Average reductions of 55% in the concentration of phosphorus in water leaving the farm fields are being achieved. While gypsum was historically mined, this research makes good use of a modern source, the calcium sulfate that is a byproduct of flue gas desulfurization, a process that removes sulfur from the exhaust of coal-fired power plants.  The beneficial reuse of this gypsum turns an otherwise landfilled material into a valuable and environmentally beneficial...

New Research Identifies Tool to Mitigate Phosphorus

Calcium Sulfate (gypsum) soil amendment reduces SRP loading by over 50%  Nutrient runoff from agricultural fields is one source of pollution that impacts the integrity of our waterways and the quality of our critical water resources. Fertilizers and animal manures are important sources of the nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus. These help to maintain the productivity of farmland and our nation’s food security in the current agricultural landscape, but they can also impact the environment once they leave the field and enter our lakes and rivers. In the Midwest, phosphorus from farm activities in areas like the Maumee River watershed in Indiana and Ohio contribute to annual “blooms” of algae in Lake Erie that kill wildlife, pollute drinking water with toxins, and disrupt economic growth. Given the importance of both fruitful and reliable agriculture and the need to safeguard high-quality water resources into the future, research is being conducted into tools that will allow farmers to support their livelihoods while acting as responsible stewards of the lands and waters their farms impact. One such tool is calcium sulfate (gypsum), and a study underway in Ohio is yielding extremely promising results after just the first use. Gypsum is a naturally occurring mineral that has been recognized for its benefits to agriculture for hundreds of years. It is also a byproduct of flue gas desulfurization (FGD) systems, or the coal-fired power plant “scrubbers” that have been installed in many plants to remove sulfur from their exhaust and reduce acid rain. Our research, designed and led by Dr. Warren Dick of the Ohio State University, takes this valuable material (which is often disposed...