MALINTA — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and several other state officials Thursday visited a Henry County farm leading the way in nutrient management.
Tony Rohrs, co-owner of the Rohrs Brothers Farm, told DeWine the operation has 6,400 acres of land, all of which it has enrolled in the H2Ohio program.
“We’re using less phosphorous, but the important thing is we’re not seeing reductions in yield,” Rohrs said.
He added the process starts with soil sampling, with farm fields divided into zones. The data is sent to the H2Ohio management plan and then it is decided to which areas they will apply phosphorous.
“One of the big changes is there are areas we’re not even putting phosphorous on,” Rohrs said. “We’re just using what’s in the soil.”
The goal of the H2Ohio program is to reduce runoff of phosphorous from farm fields into the Lake Erie watershed water ways. That phosphorous eventually finds its way into Lake Erie, helping to create algal blooms in the lake.
The H2Ohio program is voluntary and the initial phase was only open to 14 counties in northwest Ohio, including Henry and Williams.
Bob George of Henry Soil and Water Conservation District, which administers the program in Henry County, said 63% of farmable acres in Henry County have been signed up for the program.
Recently, the program was opened up to add more counties.
“This is the best educational tool, by far, Soil and Water has been able to use in my 40 years here,” George said.
He added it also helps build positive relationships between Soil and Water and local farmers.
George also said he is hoping the program can be expanded more in the future and more farmers sign up for it or add acres.
DeWine praised the state legislature for its support of the program, and in particular, Rep. James Hoops, R-Ohio, who was also at the event.
“I don’t know of any farmer who wants to put something down on the field and see that end up in Lake Erie,” Hoops said.
Rohrs pointed out a successful program can’t be detrimental to farmers economically because they have family to support, children going to college and employees to pay.
“It’s exciting to see what the Rohrs Brothers are doing right here in Henry County,” Hoops said. “The farming community has to brag a little bit about what it’s doing already.”
Of the 14 counties in the initial run of H2Ohio, Henry County led in farmers utilizing it at 63%, with Williams County coming in with 62%. The next highest was Paulding County at 57%, while other nearby counties were, Defiance and Fulton (31%), Lucas (29%), Putnam (55%) and Wood (43%).
Initially, the program goal was to have 103,000 acres of farmland in the 14-county area signed up for the nutrient management plans, but there have been 1.1 million signed on, with 133,000 of those coming from Henry County.
DeWine said the continuation of the program is important.
“The value of agriculture in northwest Ohio is massive, but so is the value of Lake Erie,” DeWine said.