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Reducing phosphorus runoff

By James J. Hoorman, Hoorman Soil Health Services

Tremendous farmer turnout occurred for the new Ohio H20 plan for $30 million being provided to 14 Northwest Ohio counties to improve Lake Erie water quality.  Almost everyone agrees that phosphorus (P) in surface water is a major issue.  The excess P in surface water is causing Harmful Algal Blooms (HAB) in Lake Erie.  Since we are dealing with many algae (singular), the plural is algal not algae (common mistake).  One pound of P in water may produce 500 pounds of HAB.  The HAB in water need 1/10 the amount of P that our land-based plants need to thrive, so even a little P in surface water causes HAB to thrive.

In the 1970’s/1980’s, the problem was total phosphorus which includes dissolved (or soluble) reactive phosphorus (DRP) plus the particulate phosphorus (PP) or P attached to soil particles.  Recently, researchers have concentrated mainly on DRP because it flows with the water and is easily HAB absorbed. 

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