Demonstration farms showcase how farmers are reducing nutrient runoff

A major piece of Ohio Farm Bureau’s comprehensive Water Quality Action Plan is now in place. In late April, Ohio Farm Bureau and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service announced the establishment of three demonstration farms that will showcase innovative and standard agricultural practices that help reduce and prevent nutrient runoff.

The Blanchard River Demonstration Farm Network is a $1 million, five-year project and the first of its kind in Ohio. Ohio Farm Bureau has been working with NRCS since last fall on identifying and setting up the farms in the Western Lake Erie Basin. Aaron Heilers of Anna is managing the project, serving as a liaison between Farm Bureau, local landowners and federal, state and local stakeholders.

The farms are in Hancock and Hardin counties and will be open to anybody interested in learning about the different methods to improve water quality. Ohio Farm Bureau will help share results of the project with farmers, land management agencies, legislators and the public.

The project includes several crucial components:
• Edge-of-field monitoring – Monitoring stations will be established to measure changes in sediment and nutrient losses via surface runoff as well as drainage tile discharge. Water quality and quantity monitoring before and after the project implementation will provide the data necessary to evaluate the effectiveness of the conservation practice.
• Economic analysis – The overall economic impact of the conservation practices on the farmer.
• Participation and attendance – The level of interest (i.e. how many visited the demonstration farm or participated in tours).
• Project replication – The frequency in which other farmers in the Western Lake Erie Basin replicate the conservation practices.

Participating farms
Kellogg Farms, Hardin County

Bill and Shane Kellogg

Bill and Shane Kellogg own and operate a 4,200-acre grain farm. The family has committed 305 acres in a corn/soybean rotation. The site will focus heavily on subsurface nutrient placement and its effect on yields and potential fertilizer savings and different methods and timing of cover crop placements. Other practices will include proper storage facilities for on-site fertilizer and fuel tanks. An abandoned water well will be capped.

Kurt Farms, Hardin County

Chris Kurt

Chris Kurt owns a 470-acre grain farm, and 168 acres of corn/soybean fields will be used. The project will monitor the effect on water quality of a two-stage ditch that was constructed previously. Other studies will look at subsurface placement of nutrients, cover crops, blind inlets, filter strips and edge-of-tile nutrient removal technologies. Edge-of-field monitoring will be installed and an abandoned gas well removed.

Stateler Family Farms, Hancock County

Anthony and Duane Stateler, Hancock County Ohio

Anthony and Duane Stateler have a 500-acre grain farm and 7,200 head swine to finish operation. The project is putting 243 acres in a corn, soybean and wheat rotation and looking at how spreading manure on growing crops will affect yields and water quality. Another study will look at increasing cover crop usage as an alternative to tillage in regard to compaction issues.