Ohio Farmer

Farmers make strides in Sandusky watershed

Encouraging farm-level water quality efforts were reported in a survey.

April 23, 2024

2 Min Read
Sunset over cornfields
SURVEY: This assessment survey is the second in an ongoing program by OACI, conducting survey assessments of watersheds around the state. David Papazian/Getty Images

A recent survey of the Sandusky watershed showed farmers used fertilizer retailers and crop consultants for 87% of fields surveyed, and 62% of fields had phosphorus applied using variable-rate technology.

It’s just a couple key takeaways from the 2023 Assessment Survey Report conducted by the Ohio Agriculture Conservation Initiative.

It will serve as a baseline for future surveys to assess conservation efforts, areas for improvement and continued farmer education and resourcing by OACI, as well as allow a more targeted approach to help increase some practices.

The survey assessed cost-share program enrollment, acres farmed and ownership status, tillage, nutrient applications and other nutrient management strategies, and water management practices. 

Other key findings from survey:

  • About 57% of the fields surveyed were currently enrolled in a cost-share conservation program, including both state and federal programs. 

  • Most farmers were testing their soil adequately, with 92% of the fields surveyed being sampled every four years. The vast majority of soil samples (85%) were being done using precision agriculture, via grid or zone methods.

  • 21% of fields had nitrogen applied using variable-rate technology. 

  • 55% of the fields were either no-tilled or minimally tilled.

  • 59% of the farmland assessed was owned by the farmer, and 41% was in a lease.

  • Farmers know their land, as 92% of the fields had been managed by the farmer for three years or longer.

  • Commercial fertilizer is the majority nutrient source (80%) used in this region, followed by manure (14%).

This assessment survey is the second in an ongoing program by OACI, conducting survey assessments of watersheds around the state — and re-surveying each previously surveyed watershed every few years. The first survey assessed the Lower Maumee watershed

"The numbers were, overall, much stronger than I thought they were going to be, and I'm really hopeful that after H2Ohio is factored into these assessments in the future that those figures will be even bigger," says Kris Swartz, Wood County farmer and chair of OACI. "The amount of producers embracing technology and using grid sampling and variable-rate applications stood out to me and paints a bright picture for the future of this watershed."

You can watch OACI’s Sandusky Watershed Report webinar here, and you can listen to a podcast on the report here

The assessment survey was conducted by OACI through a randomized sampling of 433 crop production fields within the HUC8 Sandusky watershed. A statistical approach was implemented to determine what practices are being used by farmers within this watershed to manage water and nutrients.

In the field survey process, all the cropped fields within the watershed were considered in the randomized selection process regardless of farm and field size. This survey was completed before the implementation of H2Ohio practices.

A trained Soil and Water Conservation District employee interviewed the landowner or farm manager for each field surveyed. Ohio State University and the Center for Survey Statistics and Methodology at Iowa State University helped in designing the sampling strategy and data analysis.

Source: OACI

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