Members of Michigan Cleaner Lake Erie through Action and Research (MI CLEAR), a coalition of environmental and agricultural leaders, conservationists, universities and other concerned groups working to improve Lake Erie and the long-term water quality of the Western Lake Erie Basin (WLEB), toured two MAEAP-verified livestock and cropping operations in Lenawee County on Friday, Sept. 14, 2018. The purpose was to provide members of the coalition an understanding of conservation efforts by farmers to reduce phosphorus amounts entering Lake Erie by 40 percent by 2025.
The first stop was Bakerlads Farms, where Blaine Baker has been at the forefront with innovative projects dealing with water management, water quality, and drainage practices. His use of technology and mapping on his dairy and cropping operation helps him to know exactly where nutrients need to go on his farm so they are used efficiently for good crop production and have less potential for runoff into the watershed.
“Our farm has been involved in conservation since the 1940s, starting with my grandfather, then my father, and now my brother and I,” said Baker. “Through the Lenawee Conservation District and the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), there’s been several good programs, from basic waterways to wash cobs, saturated buffers, the list goes on. We’ve participated in several of those on our highly-erodible land. We’re just getting started with a water-sampling project that will sample tile water coming out of the tile line. We have a saturated buffer that will hopefully capture some of the nutrients. Through Michigan State University’s involvement, they’ll be able to monitor how much nutrient value is being observed in the buffer by the grasses. As dairy farmers we’ve made a tremendous amount of progress and we’re going to establish a baseline to prove what we’re doing is helping.”
Farm stop number two was State Line Farms in Morenci, MI, a hog and cropping operation in both Michigan and Ohio, owned and operated by father and son, Dick and Gary Gallup. Chris McCallister is employed on the farm. He oversees the nutrient management and ween to finish pieces for the Gallup’s.
“Nutrient management is one of the main keys to success,” said McCallister. “At State Line Farms we use commercial fertilizer, with potash being the main one, and from the hog barns we use the manure on the crops that we grow. Spreading them and then taking soil samples helps us determine where we need to apply those nutrients. They’re applied at a variable rate, so it’s going exactly where it needs to go, in turn, keeping it from making its way to Lake Erie.”
The goal of MI CLEAR is to protect, preserve and promote understanding through:
New technology is key, and according to MI CLEAR, breakthroughs are happening all the time and partnerships between private and public-sector groups are essential. One of those partnerships is Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA). Its Director of Waste Water Operations, Majid Khan, was on the tour.
“It was a great gathering of folks who are committed to protecting our environment,” said Khan. “I was impressed with the technology and the farming practices that are being used at the two farming operations we visited. This technology and the adopted farming practices help in conserving the fertilizer and nutrient run off to the water bodies and will control the algae blooms in WLEB. Thanks to the MI CLEAR partnership, it is providing the platform for all who are involved in WLEB recovery efforts and in keeping Lake Erie environment in a healthy condition. And many thanks to Laura Campbell and her team from Farm Bureau for hosting the meeting and conducting farm operations tour.”