American Farmland Trust Project Will Help Central
Ohio Farmers Minimize Nutrient Loss
while Maximizing Profitability
Focused on helping the state of Ohio’s address agriculture-related water quality challenges, farmers will receive financial incentives to drive change.
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Today, American Farmland Trust, the organization behind the national movement No Farms No Food®, is launching a project to improve water quality in the Upper Scioto River Watershed focused on changing the form of phosphorus fertilizer applied by farmers and thereby eliminating an unessential nitrogen application in the fall. With funding from and Ohio Natural Resources Conservation Service Conservation Innovation Grant, AFT will incentivize agricultural producers in the watershed to switch fertilizers. AFT hopes to significantly reduce nitrate loading and improve the drinking water in the watershed and downstream communities, including the Cities of Columbus and Marysville, as well as the water quality of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers ultimately improving the hypoxic dead zone in the northern Gulf of Mexico.
Farmers rely on two major nutrients in fertilizer— nitrogen, and phosphorus to grow crops. Removing fall application of nitrogen, when there are no growing plants to take it up, can reduce nitrate leaching and run off into streams and rivers. When excess farm fertilizers run off into local waterways, algae feed on the nutrients and rob the water of oxygen, causing dead zones. Over 70% of the nutrients causing the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico and impaired streams throughout the Mississippi River Basin stem from the unintended consequence of agricultural production. Specifically, AFT is seeking to utilize an incentive-based program to substitute triple super phosphate, or TSP (0% N), for fall applied Monoammonium Phosphate, or MAP (11% N), and Diammonium Phosphate, or DAP (18% N), thereby eliminating nitrogen applied through the use of these two products.
“We are using a product that aligns better with nutrient needs, availability of nutrients and application timing. It is more environmentally friendly because it allows the farmer to better implement the ‘4R concepts’ of right source, right rate, right time, right place,” states Brian Brandt, AFT agriculture conservation innovations director. “From a farmer’s perspective, change is never easy. Our hope is that through efficient use of a farmer’s inputs in the field, they will see more profitability in their farming operation. To succeed, any solutions for cleaner water must also ensure thriving and economically viable farms.”
The product that farmers in the watershed are currently using, MAP and DAP, generates acceptable agronomic and profit returns. In addition, farmers like the fact that they are potentially getting supplemental nitrogen fertilizer at little or no cost. Outside of an environmental benefit there is little or no additional agronomic or profitability impact of using TSP. But TSP is also a familiar and time proven product to a certain generation of farmers, many of whom recall “Triple” with nostalgia, as it reminds them of the “good old days”.
Based on AFT’s conversations with wholesalers, retailers, and farmers, AFT considers the following to be the most significant challenges to address with this project:
- Creating farmer demand and “pulling” TSP back into the market.
- Navigating the supply chain to make TSP easily available.
- Securing storage space at the retail level for a “new” fertilizer product.
If successful, this project will benefit multiple stakeholders. As noted, the proposed project will provide water quality benefits to local communities, downstream communities, and the basin as a whole. Agricultural producers will benefit by reducing input costs while also making progress on conservation goals related to water quality. Agricultural retailers will be able to diversify their suite of products and adhere to the “4R concepts” by providing additional options for farmers to customize fertilizer applications to specific conditions. Fish and wildlife that depend on clean water will also benefit from the proposed project, including in the hypoxic dead zone of the Gulf of Mexico.
American Farmland Trust is the only national organization that takes a holistic approach to agriculture, focusing on the land itself, the agricultural practices used on that land, and the farmers and ranchers who do the work. AFT launched the conservation agriculture movement and continues to raise public awareness through our No Farms, No Food message. Since our founding in 1980, AFT has helped permanently protect over 6.5 million acres of agricultural lands, advanced environmentally-sound farming practices on a half million additional acres and supported thousands of farm families.