DEC 20, 2018 02:18 PM PST

How to best prevent agricultural run-off

New research from scientists at Ohio State University provides fresh insights on ways to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus farm runoff into waterways. The research aims to better inform models that guide agricultural practices in attempts to reduce the impacts that runoff has on waterways through the growth of toxic algal blooms. Though not yet published, the research was shared by Ohio State postdoctoral researcher Asmita Murumkar at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) fall meeting in Washington, D.C.

A toxic algal bloom caused by agriculture runoff. Photo: USGS

Determining the consequences of farming practices can be a tricky maze to navigate. Decisions such as when to apply fertilizer must be made taking into consideration a whole other slew of external environmental factors, such as precipitation or drought vulnerability – and while there are basic models that help farmers and environmental protection organizations make predictions to make these decisions, the models are not as accurate as they need to be.

Murumkar’s research, on which she collaborated with other Ohio State scientists, utilizes the Ohio Applicator Forecast from the National Weather Service to better understand how the timing of fertilizer application intersects with heavy rains to contribute to nutrient runoff, explains Science Daily.

Jay Martin, a professor of ecological engineering at Ohio State, commented that the goal of the research is to use existing data to get a larger-scale view of how farming practices impact runoff. "We want to better understand how much phosphorus runoff it would reduce in the region," Martin said. "We know from our previous work that fertilizer timing is important, but we want to be able to look across the whole Lake Erie Basin and know best-case and worst-case scenarios and this modeling will help address that," he said.

The researchers also remarked on the confusion that sometimes exists among agricultural communities regarding when is the “right” time to apply fertilizer. "There's more subtlety here than just watching the weather and the ground moisture and we're trying to determine the best solutions that support agricultural production and environmental protection," Martin said. They hope their tool will help clarify that for farmers and environmental organizations alike.

But the research also has the underlying goal of forming better relationships amongst the scientific academic community and agricultural communities. "We know that if you build a bad model it's not going to help anybody make any decisions," said Margaret Kalcic, assistant professor in Ohio State's Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering Department. "We really want to build trust in truly useful models that will help policymakers, farmers and others. The worst thing would be that people trust models that are telling them the entirely wrong message.”

Sources: Science Daily

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
DEC 05, 2018
Plants & Animals
DEC 05, 2018
All Known Sea Turtle Species Have Ingested Microplastics
The world’s oceans are undergoing a pollution crisis the likes of which we’ve never seen before, and the unsuspecting victims of said crisis ar...
DEC 12, 2018
Earth & The Environment
DEC 12, 2018
Bioenergy crops are hurting global biodiversity
New research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that bioenergy crop production may not be as eco-friendly as once th...
DEC 17, 2018
Plants & Animals
DEC 17, 2018
New Aquatic Salamander Species Described in New Study
A new aquatic salamander species has been discovered, and researchers are almost entirely sure it matches the description of a previously-unknown animal th...
DEC 24, 2018
Plants & Animals
DEC 24, 2018
Flock Support Proves Essential to Young Willow Tit Survival
Willow tits and other similarly small birds may have a lot to gain from finding and joining a flock early in life. A paper published just this week in the...
JAN 04, 2019
Earth & The Environment
JAN 04, 2019
It's time to pull in the big data
Scientists from the Florida Museum of National History have banded together to urge other scientists to take advantage of open-access big data to solve lon...
FEB 14, 2019
Earth & The Environment
FEB 14, 2019
Deep-sea CO2 reservoirs threaten our fragile climate
New research published in the journal Environmental Research Letters by an international team of Earth scientists led by USC adds a scary twist to our view...
Loading Comments...