Farmers asked to monitor water quality by OSU Extension


The Fulton County OSU Extension Office is asking farmers to assist with a water monitoring research project that encompasses the Maumee River Basin.

The Tile Monitoring Project gives a farmer the chance to find out how much Dissolved Reactive Phosphorus (DRP) in pounds per acre is leaving their field site, based on their crop production system. Farmers will be provided their individual data plus summary data for all sites in the project. The data will be used to understand what conditions lead to DRP loss and what Best Management Practices (BMP’s) are needed to reduce nutrient loss.

Water sampling devices are placed at the end of field tile or within drainage water management structures during two periods September to December and March to June. The sample devices are changed out every 4-5 weeks or 2-3 times during each sample period. A standard soil test analysis will be provided.

Data generated from sample sites will only be shared as summarized data by watershed. No individual data will be shared by participant name or GPS location. The database size targeted is 150-200 fields in Northwest Ohio.

The data will be used to develop tools that help identify high risk sites, where nutrient loss is greater than average, so farmers can identify cost effective Best Management Practices to keep nutrients in the field. The data from this project will supplement data collected from 20 paired field sites across the state.

The primary criterion for field selection is that drainage water coming through a main to be sampled should only include water from the farm practices being done by the cooperating farmer. Shared field mains that include multiple farmer managements, road drainage, household water drainage or other areas not under control of the farmer should not be used.

The field main should drain five or more acres. There is no upper limit to field size as long as the drainage area is known and the field area drained is under the control of the cooperating farmer.

The end of the field main tile or a drainage control structure on the main tile should be accessible for deploying samplers.

It is important that the data is tied to a watershed and field location criteria such as distance to streams, soil type and other landscape characteristics can be associated with stream water quality data. For this reason, a GPS location for the field and identification of the sample area, if it less than the entire field, is essential.

Google Earth is a convenient way to forward a field image and location information. The free desktop version of the program can be found at https://earth.google.com/ or mobile versions are available through application stores for the device. Once installed, the user can zoom in to the field location and e-mail an image to labarge.1@osu.edu. Other GIS software packages being used on the farm can be used to send an image as well, just make sure the print output includes the GPS location coordinates.

Information on tillage, fertilizer applications and crop cover will be used to analyze the data obtained. It is important to record any field activities that occur in the three months prior to sampling through when the last sampler is pulled out. The following information should be considered:

Tillage should include any passes that result in soil disturbance; including date, implement and depth of soil disturbance. For example, on Oct. 30, 2015, disk chisel, six inches deep.

• Fertilizer application should include date, rate applied, analysis of fertilizer, liquid or dry, and placement in relation to soil surface. For example Oct. 29, 2015, 195 pounds/11-52-0/dry, surface broadcast.

• Planting should include crops and cover crops planted. For example Nov. 5, 2015, cereal rye, no-till and April 30, 2016, soybeans, no-till.

Current Soil Test Results: Obtaining a current soil test result is important to understand and categorize water quality results. If the farmer has current soil test results (no more than 18 months old) that they are willing to provide, new soil tests are not required. The project will also cover soil testing the field areas no larger than 20 acres per sample based on standard ways to divide up the landscape.

Multiple samples can be taken so the entire field area represented by the drainage being sampled has a soil test value. A soil sample package will be supplied that can be mailed back in or sampling can be done through arrangements with Eric Richer, Fulton County Extension Educator Agriculture and Natural Resources richer.5@osu.edu or Greg LaBarge.

If you are interested in participating in this project and have a qualifying field, contact Eric Richer at richer.5@osu.edu by Sept. 1 or call 419-337-9210.