LONDON, Ohio — The majority of farmers in the Maumee watershed that drains into Lake Erie are engaged in best management practices and generally concerned about nutrient loss, said Robyn Wilson, assistant professor of risk analysis and decision science in Ohio State University’s School of Environment and Natural Resources.
They agree agriculture contributes to nutrient-related water quality issues, and are willing to take additional action to help solve the problem, she said.
“The majority of farmers have very positive attitudes toward taking action, agreeing that taking at least one additional action to reduce nutrient loss on their farm would be fair, beneficial and valuable,” Wilson said.
The results are from an Ohio State survey of Maumee watershed farmers conducted earlier this year. Wilson will discuss the survey and its findings during a presentation titled "Nutrient loss and water quality: A survey of farmer opinion" at Farm Science Review near London on Tuesday, Sept. 18, from 11:30 a.m.-noon. The program will take place at the Review’s Gwynne Conservation Area.
Through her research, Wilson is interested in learning the values, attitudes and beliefs of people who contribute to and are most impacted by environmental issues. The Western Basin of Lake Erie has experienced increasingly large algal blooms in recent years that threaten the economy of the region. These blooms are attributed to nutrient runoff from farm fields, among a number of other factors, and are an issue of increasing significance.
“It is great to get the farmer perspective on these issues in Ohio, as I think there are a lot of assumptions about what farmers are thinking and what they are doing in relation to nutrient management,” Wilson said. “Farm Science Review is a great place to share these results because I want farmers to know they are being heard, and many of the farmers we have interacted with for this project are particularly interested in our findings.”
Wilson plans to share information about what farmers in the Maumee watershed think about nutrient loss — how concerned they are about it, how willing they are to take additional action to reduce nutrient loss, and so on — and a little about what they are already doing in terms of best management practices.
“The farmers who are more likely to be engaged in best management practices are not typically more stewardship-oriented or environmentally concerned, but they are more aware of the issues, more comfortable taking risks and have bigger farmer networks, meaning they are talking more often to other farmers across a larger geographic area,” she said.
These findings have a number of implications for education and outreach, Wilson said. Primarily, it appears farmers are not motivated to adopt BMPs by hearing about specific environmental impacts. Instead, they may be more motivated to take action if made aware of the issues in Lake Erie’s Western Basin and told how other farmers are taking action.
“A good idea may be to find ways for farmers to interact face-to-face with others from outside their immediate community, so they can hear what other farmers are doing and assess the appropriateness of those practices for their own farm,” she said. “Farm Science Review is a great place to increase those farmer networks.”
Funding for the research came from the Climate, Water and Carbon Program at Ohio State and from the National Science Foundation Coupled Human and Natural Systems Program Grant No. 1114934.
A related presentation, “Harmful algal blooms (HABs) — What you need to know!” will take place on Tuesday, Sept. 18, from 2-3 p.m. Eugene Braig, OSU Extension aquatic ecosystems program director, will demystify the potential risks of blooms, address some causes and touch on managing those causes for pond owners.
Farm Science Review is sponsored by Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, OSU Extension, and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Pre-show tickets are $5 at all OSU Extension county offices. Tickets are also available at local agribusinesses. Tickets are $8 at the gate. Children 5 and younger are admitted free. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 18-19 and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 20.