Illinois Fertilizer & Chemical Association
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Despite less farming this season, bad algae blooms expected on Lake Erie

Researchers who monitor algae blooms on Lake Erie face an interesting scenario this year.
Normally, farmers in the western basin have thousands of acres of corn and soybeans planted by now. Because of excessive rains from last fall through early summer, that’s not the case this year, so the farmers likely didn’t fertilize their fields as much.
Some fertilizer, which contains phosphorus, eventually runs off into tributaries that feed the lake, sometimes causing harmful algae blooms. On a scale of 1 to 10, the bloom severity is expected to hit 7.5 this year. As of last week, the blooms extended from Maumee Bay north along the Michigan coast, as well as east along the Ohio coast to the Portage River.
So why are blooms expected to be intense this year?
“We believe the phosphorous making it into Lake Erie was slightly reduced because farmers weren’t able to get out and apply fertilizer. Basically, we’re showing the dissolved phosphorous is about 30% less than what we would predict,” said Chris Winslow, who directs Ohio State University’s Ohio Sea Grant College Program. “What that tells us is if we don’t apply phosphorous on these fields, we can get a reduction in phosphorous. But what it also tells us is the phosphorous is also coming from other sources.”
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