The cornerstone project of Ohio Farm Bureau’s $2.6 million Water Quality Action Plan is now halfway done. The Blanchard River Demonstration Farms Network is a unique five-year partnership between OFBF and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Three farms in Hardin and Hancock counties have opened their fields up to the public to showcase different types of leading-edge conservation practices that can improve water quality. These demonstration farms in the Western Lake Erie Basin are helping farmers find the right combination of practices that reduce nutrient and sediment loss while minimally affecting their bottom line. The three farms have been sharing information about the cost and pros and cons of their conservation practices while researchers have been documenting the reduction in nutrient loss.
Halfway through the $1 million project, experts have identified three best management practices that are the most effective in helping improve water quality:
• Following the 4R approach (applying fertilizer or manure from the right source and at the right rate, right time and right place) by using measures such as subsurface placement of nutrients, soil testing and variable rate manure/fertilizer application
• Developing a water management plan that includes practices like phosphorus removal beds, two-stage ditches, blind inlets, drainage water management and wetlands
• Reducing soil erosion through cover crops, filter strips, grassed waterways, no-till and other practices.
A wide variety of visitors have toured the demonstration farms including the former mayor of Toledo and staff, county commissioners, members of Congress, USDA officials, farmers, media, high school students, environmentalists and Ohio Department of Agriculture and Ohio Environmental Protection Agency officials. To date, the farms have welcomed more than 1,500 visitors.
Over the next couple of years, researchers will continue to gather data on edge-of-field testing and conservation practices on the farms to document their effectiveness and share with farmers and the public. Videos and photos describing the different conservation practices being used on the three farms are available.
Interested in a group tour of the Blanchard River Demonstration Farms?
Visit the farms’ website to set up a tour or to learn more about the $2.6 million project.
Photo caption: In May, OFBF Executive Vice President Adam Sharp, far right, and others gave Ohio Department of Agriculture Director Dorothy Pelanda, second from left, a tour of the Blanchard River Demonstration Farms Network in northwest Ohio. The demo farms project, a partnership between Ohio Farm Bureau and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, is halfway through a five-year partnership to study various farming practices that control nutrient management.