Ohio State suggests ways to reduce harmful algae blooms


COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio State University researchers have released several suggestions to reduce toxic algae blooms.

The researchers have been testing different strategies to reduce phosphorus discharge, which feeds toxic algae, The Columbus Dispatch reported.

The project results announced last week follow an agreement this year between the U.S. and Canada to cut phosphorus discharge into Lake Erie by 40 percent.

The Ohio State project found that farmers should apply fertilizer below the soil surface and plant cover crops and buffer strips.

Cover crops prevent rain from washing fertilizer into lakes. They’re grown in fields that would otherwise go unplanted.

Buffer strips serve a similar purpose. They’re often planted with grass or other non-crop plants and surround fields.

The researchers found that 39 percent of farmers in the Lake Erie watershed already use subsurface fertilization, 22 percent grow cover crops and 35 percent plant buffer strips.

They say each of those figures is at least 20 percent less that where they should be if phosphorus discharge into Lake Erie is to be cut 40 percent.

“A lot of farmers have already taken the risk … to help move the needle,” said Jay Martin, project leader and director of the university’s Field to Faucet water quality program. “That’s really encouraging. But we need to accelerate.”

Ohioans also are willing to use tax money to combat algae blooms, researchers found.

Robyn Wilson, a behavioral economist who was part of the project, said they’re now looking at where to go from here.

“We think we know which levers to pull, so let’s go design some field experiments,” Wilson said.

Cost estimates on matching current adoption practices to the necessary levels are expected within a couple months.

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