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Farmers work to reduce fertilizer runoff contributing to algal blooms

by Kristina Smith Horn

When Jerry Whipple was a boy, his grandfather and father impressed upon him the value of the land they farmed and their responsibility to it.

"They were very passionate about the soil," said Whipple, a third-generation farmer. "They said, 'Son, they don't make any more soil. We need to take care of it.'"

Today, Whipple farms 400 acres in the Oak Harbor area and grows corn, soybeans and wheat. He's never forgotten the words of his father and grandfather.

As harmful algal blooms on Lake Erie grew in recent years, researchers determined there was a connection between the explosion of toxic algae and phosphorous from fertilizer running off of farmland into lake tributaries. They also found other sources of phosphorous, but identified agriculture as the biggest contributor of phosphorous that fuels the blooms, which threaten the local tourism industry.

When government funding became available for farmers to make improvements that would reduce phosphorous runoff, Whipple applied and made upgrades to his fields.

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