An Ohio State University (OSU) researcher is conducting a three-year project to revise an agricultural tool that helps farmers do a better job of predicting phosphorus runoff.
The On-Field Ohio  project, which is now in its second year, seeks to revise the United States Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service Ohio Phosphorus Risk Index to make it more useful, said Elizabeth Dayton, the OSU soil scientist who is conducting the project.
Dayton garnered a $1 million USDA Conservation Innovation Grant and another $1 million in matching donations from Ohio farmers groups to complete the project.
Phosphorus is the agricultural pollutant that is often implicated in the degradation of fresh surface water and is a major contributor to harmful algal blooms, experts say.
Dayton’s goal is to make the P Index, used by farmers as part of nutrient management plans, more accurate and increase management options to reduce phosphorus runoff.
She’s also working to create a Web-based tool so farmers can easily calculate and manage their offsite phosphorus transport risk, she said.
Some management practices being evaluated for possible improvement include tillage, soil type, fertilizer placement, soil phosphorus content, field topography, soil infiltration rate, drainage control structures and cover crops.
To date, monitoring equipment has been installed on 30 farm fields in the three Ohio watersheds.
Data is being collected on the soils, the farmers’ management practices, and surface and subsurface water runoff at the sites. The research team has collected and analyzed more than 5,000 water samples thus far, Dayton noted.
She said that the project would not be possible without the assistance of all the participating farmers.
She added that she can't acknowledge often enough how much they appreciate the farmers willingness to share theirm management information, as well as allowing the ongoing data collection to take place.