Partnership for Ag Resource Management



State of the Science: Opportunities to Reduce Phosphorus Loading in western Lake Erie by 40% by 2022




What do we know about the effectiveness of Best Management Practices (BMPs) in reducing phosphorus losses from cropland in the Western Lake Erie Basin? Answering that question was the focus of a conference March 9-10 of this year, organized by the Partnership for Ag Resource Management and hosted by the National Center for Water Quality Research at Heidelberg University. Funding was provided by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Conservation Innovation Grant program.

Research suggests that an approximately 40% reduction in phosphorus loading would reduce the frequency and severity of western Lake Erie algal blooms to acceptable levels, i.e., few and mild when they occur. The International Joint Commission, an international body formed by the US and Canada in 1909 to help manage the boundary waters between the two countries, has set a goal for restoring the health of the Great Lakes by 2022, thus making the conversations that took place at the conference both essential and timely.

Expert presenters and 85 conference participants reviewed current knowledge and developed research priorities to fill gaps in our understanding. Dr. Laura Johnson, director of the Heidelberg Center, reviewed what we know about phosphorus movement in the Watershed from water samples collected by monitoring stations operated by the Center. She also presented data on concentrations of phosphorus in upper layers of soil, resulting from years of surface applications and limited tillage. This concentration can increase potential for phosphorus losses during precipitation and snow-melt events.

Dr. Libby Dayton, Ohio State University, reported on progress towards an improved phosphorus index for Ohio. The index can be used by farmers and others to estimate potential for phosphors losses from individual fields. Dr. Kevin King, research leader with the USDA Agricultural Research Service, reported on early results from studies looking at phosphorus concentrations in surface runoff and drainage tile effluent from 20 paired sites, each with different farming practices in place. His research suggests that shallow (3") tillage incorporation of phosphorus after surface applications may reduce phosphorus losses by four fifths.

The afternoon session also included a demonstration of the Nutrient Tracking Tool (NTT), an online resource developed by Dr. Ali Saleh and colleagues at the Texas Institute for Environmental Research at Tarleton University in Texas. NTT users can compare different management practices to approximate how each practice will impact crop yield, and whether it will improve soil health protect water quality. Dr. Rem Confesor, senior scientist at the Heidelberg Center, is collaborating with Dr. Saleh to adapt NTT for conditions in the Western Lake Erie Basin, and to test and refine its predictions for fields in the region.

On day two, Dr. Robyn Wilson, associate professor at The Ohio State University, shared data she has developed on farmer perceptions of, and likeliness to adopt specific BMPs. Her findings indicate that there is strong interest in both cover crops and subsurface placement of phosphorus. Growth in adoption by farmers can be supported by clearly communicating the efficacy of specific BMPs, and maintaining programs that help cover additional costs incurred by farmers.

Attendees agreed that common messages, communicated by everyone working to improve western Lake Erie water quality, were needed to generate focused, effective changes in practices and sustainable improvements in water quality. Challenges include as-yet-unresolved uncertainty around efficacy of potentially key BMPs, and unmet technology needs. For example, cover cropping impacts on phosphorus losses have not been conclusively demonstrated, and the large variability in the practice, including differences in cover crop species, timing and method of planting and termination, and in weather conditions from year to year, make research a costly and lengthy endeavor. Equipment to affordably place phosphorus under the soil surface, without increasing soil erosion, is also lacking.

Videos of the presentations from all speakers will be available shortly on our website! We will alert you as soon as they are posted.






We are extending the deadline to take our 2016 Ag Retailer BMP Products and Services Survey to April 15, 2017. Over 90 ag retailers within the Great Lakes Basin (GLB) have already taken the survey. We'd like to thank them for their participation, and invite all GLB ag retailers to participate in this confidential survey right now-just click here ! Once results are collected and analyzed, you will receive a report including estimates benchmarking the impact of your product and service sales on water quality, plus estimates for the ag retail industry in your state and in the Great Lakes Ba sin.


This program is critically important for our industry to demonstrate voluntary ag retailer stewardship to help solve water quality problems within the Great Lakes Basin - without additional regulations. Join our partnership now by taking this survey , and together we can make a difference!




Watch Past Webinars ON-DEMAND for CCA CEUs! Next Webinar in June!

Phosphorus Stratification - Dealing with the Invisible P Specter on Cropland - It’s Not a Myth!

  • First, hear from Dr. Peter Kleinman, Research Leader & Soil Scientist from the USDA-ARS. Pete discusses: What causes it, correlate phosphorus (P) stratification to soil matrix and tile flow, how to stop/slow this process, and how to fix P stratification in a no-till setup.
  • Then, hear from Dr. Mark Williams, Agricultural Engineer from the USDA-ARS. Mark explains: P concentrations and loads in surface runoff and tile discharge, hydro-logic connectivity, mechanisms for P transport, and accumulation of P in soils.
  • 1.5 CCA CEU's available! (1 in nutrient management, 0.5 in soil & water management).


Cover Crop Termination - Herbicide Considerations During Establishment and Termination

  • Hear from Dr. William Curran, Professor of Plant Science at Penn State University William discusses: How to select herbicides, which burndown herbicides to be concerned about, where to find herbicide-cover crop management guidelines and how to avoid herbicide carryover.
  • 1.5 CCA CEU's available! (1 in crop management, 0.5 in soil & water management)




PARM's latest VRT cost-share reimbursement program is LIVE!

Thanks to funding from the EPA Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, we are now enrolling growers in the Sandusky, Cedar-Portage, Lower Maumee and Blanchard watersheds in Ohio for our latest VRT cost-share program. Vi ew our field/road level interactive map to see if you and your customers qualify!

If you are interested in learning more about VRT or possibly getting involved in the program, click the button below!




Order our FREE 4R wallet cards for your next meeting or conference!




  • Wallet cards help to identify fields at a high risk of P loss by providing quick tips.
  • Convenient and easily distributed to clients. Wallet cards are a great way to start a conversation about water quality.
  • Perfect to take to grower meetings and field days!
  • To date, we have distributed over 25,000 wallet cards.




Ask the Experts!



Do you have any questions related to water quality, phosphorus management or crops? We'll try to help! You're question could be featured in our next newsletter, which is sent to thousands of people. Click the button below to email your question!






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Partnership for Ag Resource Management 211 S. Paterson St. Suite 380 Madison, Wisconsin 53703 United States (608) 232-1425