Teaming up with farmers to protect Ohio’s water

Work continues on a project to revise the Ohio Phosphorus Risk Index. The index is a planning tool that farmers use to predict phosphorus runoff from their fields, know their management options and improve the state’s water quality.

Now in its second year, the On-Field Ohio project aims to make the index more accurate and to increase farmers’ management options for reducing phosphorus runoff, said project leader Elizabeth Dayton (pictured), research scientist in the School of Environment and Natural Resources.

Phosphorus is an agricultural pollutant often implicated in reduced water quality in Ohio. It is a major contributor to harmful algal blooms, experts say.

“This project would not be possible without the assistance of our participating farmers,” Dayton said. “I cannot acknowledge often enough how much we appreciate their willingness to share their management information with us and allowing for the ongoing data collection.”

“This project would not be possible without the assistance of our participating farmers.”—Elizabeth Dayton

Has backing from farm groups and USDA

  • A $1 million U.S. Department of Agriculture Conservation Innovation Grant and $1 million in matching donations from Ohio farm groups are supporting the work.
  • To date, Dayton’s team has installed monitoring equipment on 30 farm fields in the Scioto River, Grand Lake St. Marys and Western lake Erie Basin watersheds. The latter two are especially problematic in terms of phosphorus runoff.
  • Data is being collected on soils, farmers’ management practices, and surface and subsurface runoff at the sites.
  • To contact the scientist: Elizabeth Dayton at

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