Fertilizer and other nutrients that are not taken up by your crop can run off your fields during rain and snowmelt events. Don’t let your nutrient dollars go down the drain! You can play a key role in keeping nutrients and soil on cropland and out of our waterways. Here are some key practices that make a difference:
Test your soil. Soil testing is essential to know how much of each nutrient is already present. Applying only what’s needed will reduce your costs and nutrient losses from cropland.
Grid sampling and variable rate fertilizer application. Applying nutrients at rates that match the needs of specific locations within your fields improves yields and saves money.
Apply phosphorus and other nutrients to the rooting zone. Subsurface injection places nutrients where crop roots will take them up. If you broadcast manure or fertilizer, following up with light tillage can reduce runoff losses.
Install and maintain grassed waterways to slow concentrated flow. Planting grasses where runoff channels develop in and between fields can help slow the flow and reduce soil and nutrient losses.
Plant cover crops. Fall planting of alfalfa, wheat, tillage radish and special cover crop seed mixes protects soil and nutrients over the winter and early spring, when peak soil and nutrients losses occur.
Repair damaged tile drainage. Poorly drained soils can remain saturated longer, increasing runoff potential.
Apply nutrients close to crop need. The longer your nutrients remain on your fields before being taken up by the crop, the more you are at risk of losing them to runoff from snow melt or rain. Applying phosphorus annually, rather than once every two or three years, may reduce losses. Apply phosphorus in the spring if possible, especially for high-risk fields.
Understand which fields are most at risk. Fields closest to drainage ditches, streams or rivers, and sloped fields may be more at risk of runoff losses.
Sandusky River Watershed
Nutrient losses into our streams, rivers and lakes contribute to algal blooms in Lake Erie. Algal blooms make recreation unpleasant and swimming unhealthy, and harms our tourist economy.