With a new grant, the Great Lakes Protection Fund is supporting the IPM Institute of North America to expand its pioneering collaboration with ag retailers throughout the Great Lakes Basin. This expansion of the Partnership for Ag Resource Management project is based on a successful pilot implemented in the Sandusky River Watershed in Ohio. 

During the pilot, the partners:

  • Worked with Heidelberg University, American Farmland Trust and the Sandusky River Watershed Coalition, convened ag retailers, conservation professionals and farmers to improve understanding of water quality concerns and solutions.
  • With ag retailers, identified products and services for famers that maintain profitability while promoting water quality including cover crop seed, soil sampling and custom application services that protect phosphorus from losses.
  • Promoted those products and services via webinars, an innovative wallet card designed to help farmers and agronomists identify and prioritize high-risk fields, and the project website at partnershipfarm.org.
  • Developed an Agronomist Handbook, also housed on the website, that includes resources for ag retailers including information about USDA National Resource Conservation Service programs.
  • Tracked sales of products and services and estimated impacts on phosphorus loss reduction. 

Over the course of the pilot, cover crop sales increased from 9,600 to 57,450 acres.  “Cover crops, such as cereal rye can reduce total phosphorus losses by as much as 20 lbs. per acre, although, major benefits are increased water infiltration, holding capacity and soil organic matter” says Jim Hoorman, OSU Extension Educator, Putnam County Ohio. . Participating retailers also documented increases in variable rate fertilizer application (VRT), soil test frequency and consideration of weather conditions before application, which can also reduce phosphorus losses from cropland.

The success of the pilot has been due to the leadership by ag retail participants and their farmer customers.  There is a misperception that too much fertilizer is being applied on farms.  On the contrary, ag retailers say that most growers are following Land-Grant University recommendations.  The pilot indicated that ag retailers can generate additional improvements by educating staff and farmers about the potential for these additional products and services to improve farmer income and water quality.

Ag retailers participating in the pilot included Bascom Elevator, Central Ohio Farmers Cooperative, Crop Production Services Inc., Diversified Agri-Services Inc., Heritage Cooperative, Sunrise Cooperative and The Andersons, Inc.

The IPM Institute of North America is a non-profit working to leverage marketplace power to improve health, environment and economics in agriculture and communities through Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and other sustainable practices.  The Institute earned the International IPM Excellence Award from the Sixth International IPM Symposium in 2009 and was recognized as a US EPA Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Program Champion in 2004, 2005, 2008, and received the US EPA Sustained Excellence in IPM Award and 2009 and 2012.