A Phosphorus Soil Test Metric for Reducing Dissolved Phosphorus Loads

2007 - 2016
Team Leader
David Baker
Heidelberg University
Project Website

This team expects to reduce dissolved, reactive phosphorus in Lake Erie by fifty percent within the next ten years. This reduction will drive down eutrophication and algal blooms, improving the health of the lake and its inhabitants. The team is developing new ways to measure phosphorous levels in soil, helping farmers to limit unnecessary phosphorous additions on fields and save money in the process. The team is also helping farmers, crop advisors and fertilizer sellers consider the effects of different practices on field losses of dissolved, reactive phosphorous. The team will share the tools they create from pilot work on agricultural land in the Sandusky River watershed with Saginaw Bay, MI, Green Bay, WI, and Ontario. End products include a stratified soil test and BMP instructions to reduce phosphorus runoff from soil.

The team is carefully assessing changes to long-accepted practices—like reduced tillage agriculture—which have been assumed to be beneficial. The team is now recommending state actions and has met with the Ohio Lake Erie Phosphorus Task Force, the Ohio EPA, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the Ohio Department of Agriculture, National Resource Conservation Services, university researchers and the Farm Bureau. The team has tested more than 1,200 fields and is improving sensitivity in detecting soil phosphorus levels. The data sets the team has created are now among the largest on the topic of phosphorus stratification. In response to the record levels of algae in Lake Erie in 2010 and 2011, the team prepared news releases and was interviewed for public television (in 2010) in the Toledo area.

Project Categories

  • Leadership

Project Files

  • Download Project Profile (PDF)