Some local farmers using organic fertilizer that can help stop runoff

Ottawa Lake, Michigan (13abc Action News) - The health of Lake Erie has been a focus for decades.Our recent water crisis has a lot of people working to find ways to cut down on the severity of algal blooms.Scientists say there are a number of contributing factors, including fertilizer runoff from farms.

Some local farmers are changing what they put on their fields in hopes of saving money and helping the environment. They're using an organic fertilizer called Biosolids. Biosolids come from the treatment of sanitary sewage. Research shows they can help condition the soil and add nutrients to it. A group of Michigan and Ohio farmers got together in Ottawa Lake Friday to talk about the product.

Farming is a way of life for the Iffland family. Cary Iffland has been farming for four decades. He recently started putting Biosolids on this field, "It will save me money and increase my yields."

His hope is that the organic fertilizer will also help cut down on the problems in Lake Erie, "One of the big benefits is that it doesn't runoff into Lake Erie, it bonds to the soil."

Cary's son Adam is also a farmer, "What I am most excited about is making my soil better, which will make it easier to get good crops."

Al Stuckey farms about 800 acres in the Archbold area. He's been using Biosolids on his crops for about 15 years, "When it comes to the problems with Lake Erie, I definitely want to be part of the solution."

Stuckey says it's increased his yields and he hopes it's helped decrease the amount of phosphorus and nitrogen getting into the lake, "I think this is a plus, it is more natural. It's organic. I think it's good for everyone."

Greg Merricle is an Environmental Quality Analyst with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, "About half of Michigan's waste water plants create Biosolids to be recycled."

He points out that like manure that's put on fields, Biosolids are part of the cycle of life. "It's essentially the same thing. Manure is a natural form of fertilizer, so are Biosolids. Biosolids are not water soluble they are an organic form of nitrogen. They tend to stay with the soil. They hug to it and stay put."

Merricle says farmers he's talked with are happy with the results, "Any farmer who uses Biosolids immediately sees the benefits like earthworms coming back to their soil, improved water holding capacity in the soil and higher yields."

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Biosolids can also be used on forests and rangelands as well as land that needs to be restored.