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16 February 2018

Chemical Cocktails Confound Phosphorus Management

It’s been fifty years since the Canadian government at the urging of the International Joint Commission set aside the Experimental Lakes Area near Kenora, Ontario in 1968 to conduct large-scale experiments in aquatic ecology. There, the young Director named David W. Schindler, who would go on to become a world-renown limnologist, and others conducted experiments with nutrient loading and produce one of the most iconic photos in the field of …

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30 September 2016

Lake Erie Algae Blooms Correlate to June Rainfall

June precipitation appears to be positively correlated to algae blooms in Lake Erie. Looking at monthly precipitation data readily-available from Weather Underground and comparing it to the Western Lake Erie Algae Bloom Severity Index, I was surprised by the strength of the correlation (0.6, 0.85 with an “outlier” removed). June precipitation was the only month to correlate to the Severity Index in my data set and I was surprised that …

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16 June 2016

Half of U.S. Corn Crop Now Goes to Ethanol

Farming has always been about energy. We eat food for energy our bodies need to survive. But now American farming is increasingly about filling gas tanks as well as bellies. At a typical gas station found along an interstate highway, one can fill up on gasoline blended with 10% ethanol made from corn, pay for it using a plastic card, perhaps made from corn, pull around the side of the …

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1 June 2016

Herbicides, Critical Source Areas, and Vegetated Buffers

Waging Chemical Warfare on Weeds Last fall, while on one of my country road walking routes, I noticed an advanced infestation of marestail (Conyza canadensis) in a soybean field. Evidently, this weed, and others, is becoming herbicide-resistant. A new agricultural herbicide called Acuron (link goes to manufacturer’s website) is on the market, and in some fields. Acuron has been developed in response to “superweeds” that have grown resistant to glyphosate, …

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18 April 2016

A Journey on the Dirt Road

When I was seven years old, my family moved from Dearborn, a modern suburb of Detroit, Michigan and the home of Henry Ford, to a much smaller and older town in Northwest Ohio, called Defiance. Perhaps the most notable aspect of Defiance was that it was built at the confluence of the Maumee and Auglaize rivers and regional folklore had it that the meeting of these two rivers protected the …

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16 November 2015

Field Drain Tile and the “Re-Eutrophication” of Lake Erie

Algae Blooms, Microcystin and Phosphorus It’s been over a year since Toledo, Ohio and surrounding communities shut down public water supplies due to an algae bloom and microcystin contamination in western Lake Erie. Was the trouble a “one-off” or can we expect more of these events in the future? While attending a seminar this year hosted by the Michigan Chapter of the Soil and Water Conservation Society, my interest was …

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20 November 2014

Update: American Farm Bureau Federation et al. v. EPA Oral Arguments

American Farm Bureau Federation, et al. v. EPA, Case 13-4079 oral arguments were held Tuesday (see previous post) and early indications suggest the Farm Bureau is fighting an uphill battle as it attempts to block the EPA from implementing a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) program for Chesepeake Bay. The program calls for a 25% percent cut in nitrogen, 24% cut in phosphorus, and 20% reduction in sediment loads by …

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16 November 2014

American Farm Bureau Federation vs. EPA: Oral Arguments Scheduled for Tuesday

American Farm Bureau Federation, et al. v. EPA, Case 13-4079 oral arguments are scheduled for Tuesday, November 18, 2014 at U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia. The American Farm Bureau Federation (Farm Bureau) is suing the Environmental Protection Agency over its authority to regulate farm runoff. The issue has gained attention following this summer’s “do not drink” advisory affecting over 500,000 residents in the Toledo, Ohio …

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8 October 2014

Symphony of the Soil is a Beautiful Film Documentary

I can’t say enough about this film made by Deborah Garcia. Symphony of the Soil is available here through October 10 for free viewing. The film has wonderful macro and micro videography and a tremendous sound track. The passion these scientists providing narrative have for their subject comes through loud and clear. I try to stay away from superlatives, but can’t help it with this documentary. Watch the film. If …

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17 August 2014

Soil Connections: Drought, Dust and Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria

An unfortunate sequence of events involving drought, depleted water resources, wastewater management, antibiotic resistant bacteria (ABR) and dust storms may pose a real health risk in desert states – and, perhaps, beyond. Briefly, here’s the sequence of steps, beginning with drought and ending with a respiratory infection: 1. Arid states can’t grow everything they want with what little rainfall they get – so they irrigate. 2. Limited fresh water used …

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