Farmers learn practices to improve Michigan's water quality

  • 10.12.2022
  • The State News

MSU’s Institute of Water Research finished its five-year project to improve Michigan water quality through farming practice this fall. The research team’s methods were seven times more effective than previous methodology.

The project focused on improving water quality in Lake Erie’s western basin. For the past decade, scientists have recorded high numbers of harmful algal blooms in the water, most of which have been caused by significant increases in dissolved reactive phosphorus.

Project Manager Connor Crank said the majority of Lake Erie’s phosphorus is coming from agricultural lands. The phosphorus may be coming from the amount of fertilizer applied, the application timing or the application practices.

The research team set out to improve these farming practices to decrease phosphorus runoff.

To achieve this, the MSU team partnered with the conservation districts in Washtenaw and Lenawee Counties and the River Raisin Watershed Council. Together, they received a $1 million grant from the Environmental Protection Agency in 2020.

Next, the team set up a first-come-first-serve system for farmers to sign up for the project. The team’s technicians worked one-on-one with farmers to assess their land and teach them about environmentally friendly farming. One of the prerequisites for enrollment was that farmers have never been involved in a different funding opportunity for conservation practices before in an attempt to reach more farmers new to the topic.