Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

One Change In Farming Practice Makes For Cleaner Waterways

Date:
March 28, 2001
Source:
Ohio State University
Summary:
An Ohio State University researcher compared pollutant emissions in 1985 to those 10 years later for two watersheds that drain into the lake. He then compared those results to how farming practices changed in the area during the same time. Water quality improved with the adoption of farming practices that reduced the amount of fertilizers and chemicals draining from farmers' fields into the lake.

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Changes in farming practices have played a major role in improving water quality in Lake Erie, a recent study suggests. Farm-based pollution has dropped by as much as 50 percent in the region.

Related Articles


An Ohio State University researcher compared pollutant emissions in 1985 to those 10 years later for two watersheds that drain into the lake. He then compared those results to how farming practices changed in the area during the same time.

Water quality improved with the adoption of farming practices that reduced the amount of fertilizers and chemicals draining from farmers' fields into the lake.

"Farmers in this area began using more conservation practices during the last two decades, which resulted in an overall decrease in agricultural chemicals washing into Lake Erie," said D. Lynn Forster, study author and a professor of agricultural, environmental and development economics at Ohio State.

Farm-related pollution levels in Lake Erie decreased anywhere from 5 percent to more than 50 percent in a 10-year period.

The most striking change in farming practices was the rapid adoption of conservation tillage in both watersheds. Conservation tillage is any tilling practice that leaves 30 percent of the field covered with residue from the previous crop. In traditional, or conventional, tilling, the farmer tills the previous crop completely, leaving fresh soil vulnerable to erosion. In 1985, only 5 to 14 percent of the farms in northwestern Ohio used conservation tillage, compared with 50 percent which did so in 1995. Lynn suspects the percentage has remained about the same.

Forster's research appears in a recent issue of the Journal of Soil and Water Conservation.

Forster analyzed the agricultural practices of 450 farms in 19 counties located in the Maumee and Sandusky river watersheds in northwestern Ohio. The area is a good representative of farmland in the United States, Forster said. The watersheds contain about half of the total cropland that ultimately drains into Lake Erie. Each farm included in the study had a gross annual income of at least $40,000. This income represented commercial farming and excluded rural residents with only a peripheral interest in farming.

Forster also analyzed the effectiveness of 19 federal and state government-sponsored farm incentive programs. Most of these provide financial incentives to encourage farmers to adopt conservation practices to better protect the environment. Between 1987 and 1997, federal and state agencies spent about $143 million on such programs in northwestern Ohio. Each farm participating in such a program received an average of $7,000, or about $2 per acre each year. Individual allocations ranged from more than $3.40/acre each year (three counties) to as little as $0.30 to $1/acre per year (nine counties).

Using a computer model, Forster simulated the predicted 10-year reduction in pollutants washing into Lake Erie from the watersheds due to these farming conservation programs. He then compared those estimates to actual changes in pollution as measured by other researchers. While the computer model consistently over-predicted the reduction of all but one of the pollutants, the computer-generated data did correspond with changes in actual pollutant levels in the lake.

Actual water testing revealed that in the Sandusky River, both nitrogen and suspended solids decreased by about 20 percent in a 10-year period, while phosphorus decreased by about 53 percent. In the Maumee River, suspended solid levels decreased by about 5 percent; nitrogen decreased by about 15 percent; and phosphorus by about 48 percent. However, in both rivers, nitrate levels increased by about 10 percent.

And while the conservation tillage that most farmers in the area adopted resulted in less soil erosion and decreased pollutant levels in waterways, it also helped increase farm profits.

"Environmental benefits aside, conservation tillage let some of the farms become larger and more specialized. That resulted in improved profits," Forster said. "So it makes sense that farmers would want to adopt conservation practices."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Ohio State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Ohio State University. "One Change In Farming Practice Makes For Cleaner Waterways." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 March 2001. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/03/010328075225.htm>.
Ohio State University. (2001, March 28). One Change In Farming Practice Makes For Cleaner Waterways. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 27, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/03/010328075225.htm
Ohio State University. "One Change In Farming Practice Makes For Cleaner Waterways." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/03/010328075225.htm (accessed February 27, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, February 27, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

The Amazon Keeps Its Green Thanks To The Sahara Desert

The Amazon Keeps Its Green Thanks To The Sahara Desert

Newsy (Feb. 25, 2015) Satellite data shows the Amazon rainforest supports its lush flora with a little help from Sahara Desert dust. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mayor Says District of Columbia to Go Ahead With Pot Legalization

Mayor Says District of Columbia to Go Ahead With Pot Legalization

Reuters - News Video Online (Feb. 25, 2015) Washington&apos;s mayor says the District of Columbia will move forward with marijuana legalization, despite pushback from Congress. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Marijuana Nowhere Near As Deadly As Alcohol: Study

Marijuana Nowhere Near As Deadly As Alcohol: Study

Newsy (Feb. 25, 2015) A new study says marijuana is about 114 times less deadly than alcohol. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Fox With Horrifying Injury Rescued and Released Back Into the Wild

Fox With Horrifying Injury Rescued and Released Back Into the Wild

RightThisMinute (Feb. 25, 2015) This wounded fox knew what she was doing when she wandered into the yard of a nature photographer. The photographer got "Scamp" immediately in the hands of Wildlife Aid and she was released back into the wild in no time. Video provided by RightThisMinute
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins