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
DEC 23, 2019
Plants & Animals
DEC 23, 2019
Brave Ant Explorers Engage a Termite Colony
Ants and termites have known their place as bitter rivals in the animal kingdom for more than 150 million years. Even today, as populations peak at some of...
JAN 12, 2020
Plants & Animals
JAN 12, 2020
Diego the Giant Tortoise Returning to Wild After Saving His Species
One would witness a plethora of exotic animals upon visiting the renowned Galápagos Islands, one of which might be the Galápagos giant tortoi...
JAN 17, 2020
Earth & The Environment
JAN 17, 2020
What's the carbon footprint of your fish stick?
New research from scientists at the University of California, Santa Cruz highlights the unsustainable footprint of the processed fish industry. The study, ...
FEB 02, 2020
Plants & Animals
FEB 02, 2020
These Fish Beach Themselves When it Comes Time to Mate
Most fish probably cringe at the idea of beaching themselves on purpose, especially since they can’t breathe out of water. But this is something that...
FEB 12, 2020
Earth & The Environment
FEB 12, 2020
Expect more landslides in High Mountain Asia
A new study from NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center highlights the first quantitative study of the link between precipitation and landslides in the High Moun...
FEB 15, 2020
Earth & The Environment
FEB 15, 2020
Aridification brings abrupt changes to drylands
Earth's dryland ecosystem covers 41% of the world's surface and roughly a third of the world’s population calls these ecosystems home. What e...
Loading Comments...