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Farm in McComb sees success in nutrient removal research

Stateler Family Farms in McComb, Ohio. (WNWO)

McComb, Ohio (WNWO) - Researchers are trying to find ways to tackle algae in Lake Erie. They've found that phosphorus is the main culprit for the algal blooms, mainly because of runoff.

Stateler Family Farms in McComb, Ohio is one of the many farms across the area wanting to help. They are one of the Blanchard River Demonstration Farms.

If you’ve ever accused someone of eating or acting like a pig, Stateler Family Farms wouldn’t necessarily consider that a bad thing.

“A little over 7,000 hogs we have,” said Anthony Stateler, with Stateler Family Farms. “We use the by-product, or the manure, from the hogs for all of our crops here on the farm.”

After many years of people attributing the growing phosphorus in our water sources to pigs and other animals, the Stateler’s know better.

“Agriculturists have always kind of known that N is N, P is P, and K is K,” said Anthony. “No matter what form it is, we’re not losing any more phosphorus into Lake Erie than what a commercial fertilizer is.”

The demonstration farms are testing nutrient removal off their crops. It’s done through a series of machines.

“It tells when water is running through the equipment, it knows how much the volume of the water is going through,” said Duane Stateler, with Stateler Family Farms. “Every so often, it draws a sample of water up into one of the test tubes.”

The research has shown the dirty waters aren’t caused by pigs.

“It’s because of the runoff coming off the top,” said Anthony.

It’s due to the heavy downpours of rain.

“So far, we’ve found on the surface we lose more nutrients with a major rain event than what we do normally,” said Duane.

All these nutrients run into our creeks, rivers, and eventually, Lake Erie. This creates algae growth, as it feeds off the phosphorus.

“If we lose bits and pieces of straws, corn stalk, or soybean stubble, that all has nutrient values,” said Duane.

Thanks to the demonstration farms, they have seen solutions to the problem through a water gate. It blocks the overflows from pouring into creeks.

“We’re holding water back within 16 inches of what our soil is,” said Duane.

The water management tool can hold back the water for about two weeks, then it sinks back into the surface level.

While it’s still in the testing period, the water gate has shown success.

“We were able to keep phosphorus and nutrient levels well below what the 40% reduction is for Lake Erie Watershed,” said Anthony.

October will mark two years of testing. The next step is to compare conservation practices and differentiating factors on each of the sites.

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