Ohio State University Extension has now scheduled 25 fertilizer certification classes and 45 combination fertilizer/pesticide application classes statewide for farmers. The potential reach is 5,000 farms, according to Keith Smith, Extension’s director.
Under Senate Bill 150, anyone who applies fertilizer on more than 50 acres must be certified by 2017. Ohio Farm Bureau has set an aggressive goal of having all farmers in the Western Lake Erie Basin (WLEB) certified by April 22, 2015, which is Earth Day. That’s more than two years before the state required deadline.
To help farmers make the best use of their time, Extension is offering many fertilizer certification classes in conjunction with pesticide recertification classes. The combined classes can be found by clicking on the nine regions listed on the fertilizer certification website. Right now classes are scheduled from now until March.
Extension held the first three fertilizer applicator certification classes in September, just a month after Senate Bill 150 went into effect. Those classes had 777 participants, of which 83 percent said they were farmers, according to Greg LaBarge, Extension field specialist. Those participants reported farming a total of 522,250 acres.
Ohio AgriBusiness Association (OABA) also has the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program, which encourages agricultural retailers, service providers and other certified professionals in the Western Lake Erie Basin to adopt proven best practices promoting the principles of 4R nutrient stewardship (right nutrient source, rate, time and place). To date, about 50 facilities have committed to participate in the program, representing almost two million farm acres, about half in the WLEB, according to Carrie Vollmer-Sanders, director of the Western Lake Erie Basin Project for the Nature Conservancy.
Ohio Farm Bureau’s early fertilizer applicator certification goal is part of its $1 million comprehensive water quality action plan that aims to improve the state’s waterways. OFBF also plans to help farmers in the Western Lake Erie Basin create nutrient management plans, which details responsible fertilizer use, by Earth Day 2016.