Informational Resources on Water Quality in Lake Erie


August 5, 2014

Farms and agribusinesses are doing their part to improve water quality in Western Lake Erie by using the right fertilizer source at the right rate, the right time and in the right place.

  • While the potential causes of the algal bloom in the Western Lake Erie Basin are many, farmers and the fertilizer industry are working hard to improve and protect the waters of Lake Erie by supporting education, research and outreach on innovative farm practices.
  • 4R Nutrient Stewardship (use of the right fertilizer source at the right rate, the right time and in the right place) is the foundation for science-based management of all nutrients – whether from commercial or organic sources. All four “Rs” must be used together because there is no single practice or “silver bullet” that will prevent nutrients from being lost to the environment. In 2011, the USDA revised their standard for managing farm nutrients with a goal toward employing new technologies to reduce runoff and improve water quality. The 4Rs are a component of the Natural Resources Conservation Service Conservation Practice Standard Code 590. For more information on 4R nutrient stewardship, please visit  
  • Farmers in Ohio are using phosphorous with increasing efficiency. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Census of Agriculture, farmers are growing corn with increasingly efficient use of all nutrients. In fact, 74 percent of cropland in Ohio is at or below the agronomic optimum phosphorus level.  As the Ohio Lake Erie Phosphorus Task Force II Report points out, soil phosphorus levels, especially around Lake Erie, are at or below agronomic optimum levels.
  • This year, the agriculture community launched the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program for fertilizer retailers. The program, which includes training and education, monitoring and field implementation of 4R practices culminates with third party audits and is a sign of the industry’s commitment to nutrient stewardship.  Requirements and additional details regarding the program are available at
  • The 4R Research Fund, which is supported by the fertilizer industry and key ag industry stakeholders has awarded more than $2.4 million in grants for research in support of science-based research aimed at identifying nutrient management practices that protect the environment. For more information on the 4R Research Fund, visit

    In July, the 4R Research Fund awarded a grant to United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) to work in partnership with Heidelberg University, LimnoTech, Ohio State University, The Nature Conservancy and the International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI ) to evaluate nutrient management practices and their relative impact of the Western Lake Erie Basin (WLEB). The research will also examine the 4R Certification program’s impact on crop productivity and profitability, water quality, and perceptions of growers, nutrient service providers and residents in the Western Lake Erie Basin. 

Additional Resources:

Lake Erie 4R Nutrient Certification Program 

International Plant Nutrition Institute

"Phosphorus Fertilization and Environmental Protection"

"The Right Place to Put Phosphorus"