Most farmers willing to take steps to protect water, says study done near lake Erie

Most farmers in northwest Ohio’s Maumee River watershed, Lake Erie’s largest tributary, are willing to take at least one additional action to reduce nutrient losses from their farms, provided they think the action will work and also will help their farms.

So says new research by OARDC scientist Robyn Wilson (pictured).

“If you want to motivate farmers to take actions on their farms to lessen nutrient loss (such as of phosphorus), you should be talking about how not taking action can impact their farm profits as well as how it will impact local water quality,” said Wilson, associate professor in the School of Environment and Natural Resources.

“Despite some stereotypes of farmers that they just care about profits and don’t care about water quality, farmers are generally concerned about nutrient loss and the impacts of that on water quality locally and regionally.”

“The majority of farmers have very positive attitudes toward taking action.”—Robyn Wilson

Follow 4Rs to keep water clean

  • Wilson’s findings come from recent surveys of farmers in the Maumee River watershed and from a study that looked at whether farmers had adopted recommended “4R” nutrient management strategies.
  • The four Rs stand for using the right fertilizer source at the right rate at the right time with the right placement.
  • Suggested practices, for example, include soil testing to see which nutrients are needed and how much to apply, and applying fertilizer and manure only to unfrozen ground, so it has a chance to sink in, not run off.
  • To contact the scientist: Robyn Wilson at

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