Three farms in northwestern Ohio are being turned into demonstration sites to show farmers how to reduce fertilizer runoff that feeds the harmful algae in Lake Erie.
The Ohio Farm Bureau Federation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service this week announced the launch of The Blanchard River Demonstration Farms Network.
The network involves Stateler Family Farms in McComb, Kurt Farm in Dunkirk and Kellogg Farms in Forest. The farms will showcase conservation practices aimed at reducing and preventing nutrient run-off and improving water quality in Lake Erie.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service will provide financial assistance to the farmers through conservation program contracts.
The agency said the three farms were selected to "reflect the makeup of agriculture in the watershed regarding crops and livestock, soil types, farm sizes, topography and current farming practices.
Conservation systems will be installed at the farms to monitor input and output, including annual fertilizer application rates and fertilizer levels.
Project manager Aaron Heilers said that one of the project's primary goals is to determine which practices have the most positive environmental benefits with the least amount of economic impact on the farmers, and then share those technologies with other farmers.
"The agriculture community cares about water quality and this is our opportunity to showcase the things that we're doing," Heilers said.
Heilers said multiple field days will be held throughout the next five years. The first is scheduled for Aug. 26.
Lake Erie continues to be plagued by algae blooms that produce the kind of toxins that contaminated Toledo's water supply in 2014. Last summer's bloom across the lake was the largest on record.
Algae blooms— linked to phosphorus from farm fertilizers, livestock manure and sewage treatment plants —have been blamed for fouling drinking water and contributing to oxygen-deprived dead zones where fish can't survive.