DEC 20, 2018 2:18 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
MAR 27, 2020
Earth & The Environment
MAR 27, 2020
Why haven't we stopped burning coal yet?
We all know how bad it is for the planet and for our own public health, so why can’t we just say no, once and for ...
APR 06, 2020
Microbiology
APR 06, 2020
Sensor Can Quickly Detect Bacterial Contamination in Water
Bacterial runoff is a serious threat to our waterways and oceans; pathogenic microbes are known to contaminate stormwate ...
APR 07, 2020
Cancer
APR 07, 2020
Chemo drugs are leaking into our water
With cancer as the second leading cause of death globally, it comes as a surprise that we know very little up until now ...
APR 30, 2020
Earth & The Environment
APR 30, 2020
New Study Reveals Amount of Microplastics on Seafloor
Microplastics—the often microscopic plastic particles resulting from the breakdown of large plastic items or mater ...
MAY 31, 2020
Plants & Animals
MAY 31, 2020
These Penguin Chicks Now Face the Trials of Adulthood
Like any other bird species, adult penguins follow the tried and true tradition of raising their young close to the nest ...
JUN 02, 2020
Plants & Animals
JUN 02, 2020
Why Do So Many Animals Have Different Styles of Headgear?
A substantial number of animals have evolved to have ornate and functional headgear that can help them defend themselves ...
Loading Comments...