New group developing tools to reduce Lake Erie phosphorus (2017)

By Mark Reusser, Vice President, Ontario Federation of Agriculture

New work is underway to reduce phosphorus and algal blooms in the southwestern Ontario watershed and Lake Erie. The recently announced Thames River Phosphorus Reduction Collaborative is a working group of farmers and municipalities developing innovative tools, practices and technologies to reduce phosphorus entering into southwestern Ontario waterways.

Phosphorus levels in Lake Erie and surrounding waterways are an increasing concern, and agricultural practices have been identified as a potential source of phosphorus. Excess phosphorous from U.S. and Canadian sources that runs into municipal drains can promote the growth of algal blooms in downstream water bodies, like Lake Erie. The western basin on Lake Erie has experienced several algal bloom incidents in recent years, disrupting the ecosystem, causing the closure of beaches, and resulting in a ban on city drinking water in Toledo, Ohio.

The new Thames River Phosphorus Reduction Collaborative group is focusing on creating a suite of tools and practices farmers can use to address different circumstances. The group has already gathered best practices from around the world and is looking into how they can be applied in Ontario. The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) is part of this new collaborative group, providing support and representing farmers to ensure the tools and practices developed are effective and make sense to implement on Ontario farms. OFA is already working with similar groups organized across the province to evaluate agronomic practices to reduce nutrient loss. Ontario farmers are already implementing Best Management Practices, 4R Nutrient Stewardship principles, growing cover crops and timing nutrient applications to reduce phosphorus loads in watersheds.

The Great Lakes are the largest freshwater system on Earth, holding 20% of the planet’s fresh water. A new government proposed plan, The Domestic Action Plan, was developed by the federal and Ontario governments to reduce phosphorus levels in Lake Erie. The plan targets a 40% reduction in the total phosphorus entering Lake Erie and supports initiatives developed between Canada and the U.S. targeting a 40% phosphorus level reduction by 2025.

We all have a role to play in phosphorus reduction and progressive environmental stewardship. As farmers, we take our role seriously. OFA will continue working with groups like the Thames River Phosphorus Reduction Collaborative to address phosphorus entering waterways from Ontario farms, improve agricultural practices and preserve the health of our land and water. 

For more information, contact:

Mark Reusser
Vice President
Ontario Federation of Agriculture

Neil Currie
General Manager
Ontario Federation of Agriculture


Bill Fellner P. Eng. says on July 2, 2017 at 10:43 PM

A review of tiling incentives without SWM retention ponds would be a wise move. There should be SWM ponds on all tiled acreage in future to harmonize the rural areas with such policies in urban environments.

Liz Taylor-Samis says on July 7, 2017 at 8:39 PM

Recent flooding in Drayton area and pictures from overhead show a glimpse of the soil loss. Having grassed waterways and protected area along streams would really help. As a farmer I see farmers doing grassed waterways and others working to the stream. A more concerted effort on our part would help. The CA's may have to really look at the flood plain maps and work with landowners to stop some of that soil loss and other things that goes with it.

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