Support Local Journalism. Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Reducing Harmful Lake Erie Algal Blooms: What Will It Take?

Posted By on Fri, May 3, 2019 at 11:08 AM

  • (Zachary Haslick, Aerial Associates Photography Inc./Flickr)
COLUMBUS, Ohio - With the waters of Lake Erie starting to warm, concerns are rising about the possibility of toxic algal blooms over the summer months.

There are evidence-based agricultural practices that can reduce the threat, so why are they not widely used?

New research of solutions and behaviors found that goals to reduce nutrient runoff linked to algal blooms are feasible, as many farmers are motivated to use best practices.

However, Robyn Wilson, associate professor of risk analysis and decision science at Ohio State University's School of Environment and Natural Resources, explains real and perceived barriers are preventing action.

"We see a lot of people being willing to use cover crops," she says. "But when you dig into why they're not doing it, what we see as a reason at an individual level, farmers lack confidence in their ability to successfully implement them. And they also question how effective cover crops are as a solution."

Wilson, who led the research, says farmers need better cost-benefit information, support tools and technical assistance to execute recommended practices.

According to the study, the most effective strategies to reduce nutrients are the use of phosphorus application guidelines, subsurface fertilizer application, erosion controls and water-management practices.

Voluntary and mandatory approaches to address algal blooms are suggested. And Wilson explains well-designed outreach and incentive programs could increase voluntary adoption, such as the installation of water filtration measures on fields currently in use.

"That's going to require economic incentive because no farmer's going to volunteer to take land out of production," she states. "We have some pretty conservation-minded farmers, but that's still a pretty big ask for them. We're asking them to do something for a collective benefit at an individual cost."

Wilson also recommends further understanding of the motivations behind the use of certain practices, and how to best ensure long-term use. That's because improvements won't happen overnight.

"Even if another 40 percent of farmers started using these practices tomorrow, would we see those benefits from the lake in the next year or two?" she questions. "Maybe not. So some of those processes take a while to play out to get the positive changes from an environmental standpoint."

Wilson says she's encouraged by the research, as well as Gov. Mike DeWine's recently proposed $900 million fund to improve water quality, specifically focused on Lake Erie.

Tags: , ,

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at [email protected].

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club for as little as $5 a month.

Read the Digital Print Issue

January 5, 2022

View more issues


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.


© 2022 Cleveland Scene: 737 Bolivar Rd., Suite 4100, Cleveland, OH 44115, (216) 505-8199
Logos and trademarks on this site are property of their respective owners.

Website powered by Foundation