(light guitar) – Hi, I’m Aaron Heilers and I’m the property manager for Blanchard River
Demonstration Farms. The Demonstration Farms
is a five-year initiative showcasing and demonstrating
conservation practices that will help improve
agricultural impact on downstream water quality. Today, I’d like
to share with you what agriculture is doing
to be a part of the solution to our water quality
challenges in Ohio. But, before that, we
must first understand what the root cause
of these issues are. In 2014 the citizens of
Toledo lost drinking water because of a harmful algal bloom that situated
itself over the top of the city’s
water intake pipes. This situation brought
to the forefront and issue that has been in
the background for years. An issue that is not just a
local, or state of Ohio problem but a global one. Excessive nutrients
in bodies of water can cause algae to
grow out of control and sometimes produce toxins. These toxins called,
cyanobacteria can cause acute and chronic
illnesses in humans. Science is telling
us that excessive
phosphorus in the water is directly related to the
size of this algal bloom, while excessive
nitrogen determines the toxicity of these blooms. Nutrients are an
essential part of life and are required for plants,
animals, and humans to survive. In agriculture, phosphorus is one of the most
important nutrients used. It can be found
naturally in the soil, in animal manure, or in
commercial fertilizer which is mined from the Earth. Phosphorus can also be
found in home septic systems and municipal wastewater. Before 1972, point
source pollution from factories and
wastewater treatment plants were the main sources for
phosphorus contribution into Lake Eyre. Regulations have
limited those discharges and an improvement of water
quality in Lake Eyre was seen. In recent years however,
we have once again seen a decline in the
overall health of the lake, as harmful algal blooms
have become more prevalent because of an increase in
phosphorus contribution. Today, experts estimate up to
93 percent of the phosphorus comes from non-point sources. As the state’s largest land-user farmers have shouldered
a majority of the blame. For decades, the
agriculture sector has been working to reduce
soil loss from fields. And technology
advances have improved the way our nutrients
are managed. The overall use of
phosphorus has declined over the past few decades and a study by the U.S.
Department of Agriculture shows 99 percent of
the cropland acres in the Western, Lake Eyre basin are managed with at least
one conservation practice such as conservation
tillage or cover crops. Despite these efforts an increasing amount
of soluble phosphorus has been entering Lake Eyre. The algal blooms have
closed Lake Eyre beaches, caused illness in
humans and animals and negatively
impacted the lake’s 11 billion-dollar
tourism industry. The Ohio phosphorus task force, a working group of
experts in water quality, has concluded that agriculture is a major source of
phosphorus for Lake Eyre with some experts saying
agriculture contributes as much as two-thirds. An international
body has determined that Ohio needs to reduce
phosphorus discharges into the Western, Lake Eyre
basin by 40 percent by 2025 in order to have a
healthy lake, again. But how do we reach those goals? What tools do farmers
have available to them to know that their practices that they implement
on their farm, will limit their impact on
downstream water quality? The Blanchard River
Demonstration Farms aims to show farmers
what these practices are. And to assure them, that
by implementing them agriculture can be a
part of the solution. (light guitar)