CFAES and Cargill are sowing the seeds of a new partnership.
The Minnesota-based agricultural company recently started supporting the work of the college’s Extension water quality associates. Based in northwest Ohio, the six associates are part of a project by the CFAES Water Quality Initiative (waterquality.osu.edu).
In 20 Ohio counties, the associates are sharing knowledge about best nutrient practices, working with farmers to implement the practices, and doing on-farm research on the practices’ costs, effectiveness, and benefits.
The goal is to boost soil health, improve Lake Erie’s water quality, and keep the region’s farms productive.
Northwest Ohio is the focus because the region is in the Lake Erie watershed, because harmful algal blooms are plaguing the lake, and because farm-field phosphorus runoff is the primary driver of the blooms. Twin solutions—ones good for both farms and water quality—are needed.
The project already has another key partner, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, which is funding half the associates’ salaries.
Cargill, for its part, is assisting in several ways. First, local Cargill sales representatives are helping connect farmers to the project. They’re encouraging client farmers in the region to work with the CFAES associates.
Second, the company is providing the associates with advanced equipment and technology, such as drones to check soil and crop conditions.
In July, Cargill announced a new global water program and mentioned its partnership with CFAES as a part of it (go.osu.edu/BuyE).
Cathann A. Kress, Ohio State vice president for agricultural administration and CFAES dean, said the new partnership will continue to grow.
“It started with a conversation I had with Cargill early last year. The focus was on our grand challenges—in particular, sustainability, and the work we’re doing around that area,” Kress said.
“From there, the starting point for the partnership became water quality in northwest Ohio and throughout the state. It was a natural fit for Cargill to partner with and support our researchers and Extension faculty to share and help implement water quality best practices with our stakeholders,” she said.
“We see this as an ongoing partnership. We’ve already started talking about the next projects to partner on.”
Heather Raymond, Water Quality Initiative director, said one of the possible projects is a new water quality research consortium, combining scientists from CFAES, elsewhere at Ohio State, government agencies, and other universities.
Improving Lake Erie’s water quality, Raymond said, “is going to take a team approach.”