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School of Environment and Natural Resources


Partners Gather to Kickoff Pilot Watershed Project

Aug. 30, 2023
Shallow Run and a farm field.

Farmers, landowners, farm organizations, community members and researchers from different disciplines across four universities gathered recently to kick-off the Pilot Watershed Project in the Shallow Run Watershed.

What brought them together?
A multi-million-dollar project aimed to reduce phosphorous runoff and maintain agricultural production.

Working with payment programs from the Ohio Department of Agriculture (H2Ohio) and the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS), the pilot watershed project seeks to ground truth adoption of nutrient management strategies by linking them with water quality changes in a productive agricultural watershed. The project will evaluate soil health, nutrient management strategies, and other practices that limit phosphorus loss by supporting partnerships with farmers and farm organizations to implement and adopt conservation practices.

Jay Martin, professor in Food, Agriculture and Biological Engineering (FABE) in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) at The Ohio State University, is the director of the multi-million-dollar project with funding from USDA-NRCS, the state of Ohio via H2Ohio and the Ohio Department of Agriculture, and more than 28 partners. He recently convened the kick-off meeting to introduce project partners, discuss key features of the pilot project and how it works, including what conservation practices will be supported through consultation and payments.

Supported Conservation Practices text and Jay Martin

Partnerships and Real-World Application Key to Understanding Lasting Impact

“After years of planning it’s very exciting to officially begin this project with a unique goal of achieving Lake Erie water quality targets and maintaining agricultural production by partnering with farmers, agricultural partners, and the Village of Dunkirk,” said Martin.

Thanks to partnerships with Agricultural Retailers and Hardin SWCD we have already had several meetings with farmers to describe the project, respond to questions and concerns, and include their suggestions to ease practice implementation, Martin said.

“For instance, we are supporting multiple methods for farmers to complete subsurface application of phosphorus, that include using their own machinery, working with an Agricultural Retailer, or working with a custom applicator of their choice. We hope these options and large financial incentives will increase adoption rates and allow us to clearly link the implementation of conservation practices with increases in water quality at a watershed scale. This has not been done before in the Lake Erie basin.”

“This project is critical to understanding both if we can solve water quality problems through changes in agricultural land management, and if we can design programs that help farmers sustain these changes if they in fact work in the field and not just in simulation models,” said Robyn Wilson, professor in the CFAES School of Environment and Natural Resources, who was present at the kick-off meeting to discuss the annual surveys she will lead with project farmers during the 5-year project. She will also assess farmers’ perceptions of the feasibility of adoption and the effectiveness of adopting the supported practices 2 years after the project ends.

Laura Johnson, director of National Center for Water Quality Research at Heidelberg University is leading field-to-stream monitoring of changes in water quality to understand the impact of adoption of conservation practices on water quality within the watershed. Angélica Vázquez-Ortega, associate professor in the School of Earth, Environment and Society at Bowling Green State University will lead research to examine soil health in the watershed and identify which supported farming practices reduce nutrient run-off and contribute to the overall goal of the project. Doug Deardorff, resource conservationist with Hardin Soil and Water Conversation District serves as project manager of the Pilot Watershed Project.

Partnering to preserve Lake Erie, maintaining agricultural vitality and benefiting the community

Ohio State’s partners on the project include Bowling Green State University, the University of Toledo, Heidelberg University-National Center for Water Quality Research, Kent State University, Ohio Department of Agriculture, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, The Mosaic Company, Nutrien Ag Solutions, Heritage Cooperative, Haselman Ag, The Nutrient Stewardship Council (administered by the Ohio AgriBusiness Association), Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, American Farmland Trust, the Ohio Dairy Producers Association, USDA-Agricultural Research Service (Soil Drainage Research Unit), U.S. Geological Survey, USDA Conservation Effects Assessment Project, National Wildlife Federation, Lake Erie Foundation, The Nature Conservancy in Ohio, Hardin Soil and Water Conservation District, Ohio Sea Grant, Ohio State University Extension, Ohio State University Knowledge Exchange, and the state of Ohio.

Learn more

Are you a farmer in the Shallow Run Watershed with an interest in learning more?  Email Dr. Martin at or call: 1-614-381-2885 to leave a message.