KLAS Forum Discusses Farming Run-off

The Northern Indiana Lakes Festival at Center Lake hosted numerous groups today that came together to provide information on lakes and the environment. At the Lakes Agriculture Forum, also held today and hosted by Kosciusko Lakes and Streams, agricultural leaders from northern Indiana gathered to discuss issues pertaining to the lakes in the area and local farming.

“In this particular district, you have the lakes but you also have farming and you have to find that balance between allowing people to farm and keeping our lakes clean,” said State Rep. Rebecca Kubacki.

The main topic of conversation of discussion was run-off waste. Run-off from farmers tends to be laden with chemicals, like phosphorous and nitrogen, which can be harmful for nautical ecosystems.

“I think there’s a lot of confusion around this topic, but it’s not the same way your grandfather did it,” explained Christy Penner, sales representative at Dell Financial. “We’re learning that farms only have the capacity to hold a certain amount of chemicals, going over it numerous times is dangerous and inefficient.”

Attendees at the forum questioned how officials, farmers and the public in general can help eliminate damaging run-off in the lakes. Kosciusko County is in the unique situation of having both a high number of lakes as well many farms.

Recent studies from the KLAS have indicated that certain algae in the area is proving harmful to area wildlife. The algae in question is produced when phosphorous from fertilizer is drained into streams and lakes in the area. The forum’s questioned aimed to lessen run-off of harmful chemicals as well as run-off in general.

Mark DePuy, district conservation liaison for Kosciusko County, stated that during rains like the ones experienced last week, one acre of land can lose eight tons of soil in a process known as sheet soil erosion. He discussed conservation efforts being implemented through the county, stating that the no-till method of farming tends to cause less erosion and thus has less potential for run-off of soil and harmful chemicals.

Using cover crops like tillage radish also can help to eliminate soil erosion. He explained the new technologies involved in fertilizer management, such as variable-rate fertilizing. The process uses a computer program and distributes chemicals only where they are needed. He also mentioned the importance of training farmers alongside environmentalists to only use pesticides when pests and disease affect their crop and learn how to detect them.

“We want the farmers to become intelligent about when they’re using pesticides,” DePuy said. “If we can get those practices implemented we can have cleaner water, better crop and better society as a whole.”

“As farmers, we don’t want the nutrients or that soil to go downstream either,” Jamie Scott, Soil and Water Conversation District chairman for Kosciusko County, stated. It is estimated that for every ton of soil taken from the field, a pound of phosphorous is taken with it.

Attendees expressed concerns regarding manure fertilization and its consequences. The forum assured attendees that all farms that use manure for fertilization and production are heavily monitored, there is rarely any discharge and there has not been a major spill reported.

As for the smell, Penner spoke on behalf of the agricultural technology industry stating that there are products farmers can use to enhance or improve the smell of manure, which some residents find unpleasant. However, DePuy reiterated that a cover crop is essential when applying manure, otherwise farmers can risk losing nearly half of their fertilized soil.

It is estimated that there are around 1,900 farmers in Indiana and Kosciusko County not only holds a large portion of them, but there are also over 100 lakes in the county. The ability of the agricultural community and the lakes communities to cooperate will help to ensure the safety of wildlife and quality of life in the area.

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