NW Ohio farmers use technology to cut down on run off - 13abc.com Toledo (OH) News, Weather and Sports

NW Ohio farmers use technology to cut down on run off

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Experts say one of the contributing factors to the algal blooms is phosphorous run off from farm fields, but a number of local farmers are using technology to cut down on that run off. 13abc's Lissa Guyton toured an Ottawa County farm today that's been on the cutting edge of cutting back on fertilizer use.

Galen Koepke farms 500 acres of corn, soy beans and wheat in Ottawa County, "I get my water from Lake Erie, so I am very concerned about the drinking water too. Hopefully farmers are the best stewards of the land because we need healthy land and a clean lake for our crops so we can put food on the tables for our families and everyone else as well."

Koepke is one of the farmers in our region who are using what's known as grid sampling technology. He uses it on all of his fields and had particularly impressive results on one field that a previous owner used to fertilize with chicken manure, "It had a very high phosphorous count but thanks to the grid sampling we haven't put one ounce of phosphorous on the field and there is still plenty there."

Here's how the GPS or grid sampling technology works. Samples are taken from 2.5 acre grids and sent to a lab for testing. Based on the results of those samples, a computer program then helps farmers put the right kind and amount of fertilizer on the field. The use of GPS technology is nothing new at Koepke's farm. He's been using it for more than a decade which has helped increase yields and cut down on fertilizer usage and decreased usage obviously equals savings, "We've been able to keep costs down, we don't want to spend extra money any more than anyone else does if it's unnecessary."

Farmers are also cutting down on fertilizer run off with what are known as cover crops. Doug Uher is a seed and precision specialist with Luckey Farmers,"The cover crops hold the nutrients so we don't lose them off the soil or ground into the waterways. So the cover crops act as so called scavengers to hold those nutrients in."

Uher says it's important to point out that the decades old problem won't be solved with a quick fix, "We could not apply phosphorous for the next three years and there would still be an issue. A light switch is not going to turn off overnight and solve the problem. It has to be a group effort of everybody pulling together to get this accomplished."

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