As scientists prepare for the coming season of potential algae blooms on Lake Erie, a new program designed to reduce the amount of nutrients feeding those blooms has been met with initial enthusiasm.
Nutrient service providers throughout the Lake Erie watershed in Ohio, Michigan and Indiana have been signing up for the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification program at a steady pace. As of the end of June, 49 service providers had made an initial application to the program, which was announced in March.
Service providers include individuals and companies that either sell or apply fertilizers, or make recommendations about how fertilizers should be applied to crops, and are responsible for the majority of the fertilizers applied to crops in the basin. The 49 initial applicants include, in some cases, multiple branches of one company.
The applicants must complete more extensive paperwork and be audited before they are full participants in the program, but program administrators say the applications received so far represent nutrient service providers who service more than 1 million acres in the watershed.
“We are very pleased with the initial response to the program,” said Chris Henney, president and CEO of Ohio Agribusiness Association. “It demonstrates the desire on the part of the agribusiness community to address this issue.”
The 4R Nutrient Stewardship Program encourages the right nutrient at the right rate in the right place at the right time. The program being developed in the western Lake Erie basin is a third-party certification program for the nutrient service providers. Like Forest Stewardship Council certification for forest products, this program will certify advisers who can demonstrate that they not only understand the 4R principles, but also follow them.
“The training for the independent auditors begins the week of July 14 and we expect to have some participants certified by the end of summer,” said Carrie Vollmer-Sanders, the Western Lake Erie Basin Project Director for The Nature Conservancy.
“We are excited to see the agribusiness support of the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program,” Vollmer-Sanders said. “Voluntary efforts like these, if adopted broadly, can make a difference in Lake Erie and grow food economically.”
The 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program is governed and guided by the Nutrient Stewardship Council, a diverse set of stakeholders from business, government, university and non-governmental sectors with a common goal of maintaining agricultural productivity while also improving the quality of Lake Erie and its contributing watersheds. The program is administered by the Ohio AgriBusiness Association. For more information, visit 4Rcertified.org, e-mail [email protected] or call 614-326-7520.