Stay educated as water quality issues, programs unfold


There are so many discussion items as it pertains to crop and water management in production agriculture right now.

We struggle to stay on top of the information in our office, let alone what you, the producer are going through.

The emphasis on nutrient loading due to problems in the Grand Lake Saint Mary’s and Lake Erie watersheds has created many challenges and opportunities.

In the Lake Erie watershed, we currently have a new Nutrient Reduction Program which provides landowners the opportunity to obtain financial assistance for cover crops, blind inlets, and drainage water management structures.

Drainage structures

Today, I would like to discuss the drainage water management structures. This is a viable option for some producers and it can work very well. Historically, subsurface tile drainage made profitable crop production possible.

However, one downside to this has been the unwanted byproduct of excess nutrients such as nitrates and phosphates entering the creeks and streams through tile drain water, which has the potential to negatively impact the environment.

The Question is, how can we use the existing tile lines in a way that makes them part of the solution rather than the problem? NRCS and various other researchers have helped develop concepts such as the drainage water management system, or DWM.

This helps to manage the timing and amount of water that is discharged from agricultural drainage systems. Water quality can benefit by minimizing unnecessary tile drainage and reducing nitrate amounts that leave farm fields.

Retaining water

DWM systems can also retain water needed for late season crop production. DVM systems work best on flat ground. These systems work basically by allowing operators to manage water table levels.

They simply retrofit an existing tile system with a water control structure. Each structure controls and elevation -defined area, based on lay of the land and the tile system layout already in place.

Structures are small, reasonably priced and operation is fairly simple.

Benefits of DVM:

• Reduced loading of nutrient pathogens and/or pesticides into the drainage system and off the farm.
• Improved plant/crop productivity and profitability
• Reduced oxidation of soil organic matter
• Provides seasonal wildlife habitat
• Prevent leaking of manure into tile drains during land application by raising riser boards.
New law. The nutrient issues in Ohio have also caused the development of much legislation that will impact every producer. There is a fact sheet available from ODA discussing many of the questions you may have concerning this. Here are some key points:
• Anybody who applies commercial fertilizer to more than 50 acres must be certified.
• Certification will be a three-step process of filling out an application, paying an application fee and attending a training session. A person that already has a valid commercial or private pesticide applicator license must apply for the certification but will not be required to pay the application fee. The fertilizer training will also be included in the pesticide license training beginning in early 2015.
• Applying commercial fertilizer after Sept. 30, 2017, without a certification could result in fines and/or being charged with a misdemeanor offense.
• The department will conduct random record audits.

Stay educated

As both a producer and a resource person for landowners, I encourage you to do your best to visit websites, training sessions and read all publications concerning this information.

It is a changing time and there will be many new programs and requirements placed upon landowners. Our local soil and water conservation district offices will do our best to keep you on top of the newest and latest, but even we are sometimes the last to know.

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