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Don't put daddy's toothbrush in the toilet!

By Matt Reese

My wife and I try not to have a long list of silly rules for our children to follow, but sometimes, their actions warrant rules.

Here are a few of the strange rules in Reese family law.

  1. Do not stand on the table. There are clear safety issues when an 18-month old is standing on pretty much anything. Plus, no one wants the feet of anyone (even a cute kid) in, on, or around the food.
  2. Do not unroll toilet paper for any reason. There are, of course, very important reasons why toilet paper needs to be unrolled. But, due to our children’s seemingly insatiable desire to unroll the entire roll onto the floor and around our home on a regular basis, we had to enforce very strict guidelines. For now, mom and dad do the necessary unrolling to prevent an in-house TP party.
  3. Do not pet the dog. This would seem like something we would encourage the children to do, but the reality of the situation required a rule. Petting, when done by a young child, quickly turns into poking, pulling, hitting and prodding, none of which the old dog appreciates. A grouchy dog and children is not a good mix. Hence, no petting the dog.
  4. Do not use daddy’s toothbrush to clean the toilet. I do not think much explanation is required here.

While we do not really want to make up all of these rules, sometimes the behavior (or the results of the behavior) requires regulation. Now, if you think a toothbrush in the toilet is bad, consider poisonous algae in the drinking water for 11 million people or killing off a $1 billion fishing industry in Lake Erie.

The extra nutrients in Ohio’s lakes and streams are already aggravating the general public, but when fish die and people get sick or die from the harmful algae growth in Lake Erie or Grand Lake St. Marys, people are going to be angry. Angry people want someone to blame and regulate.

The Ohio EPA already formed an Ohio Lake Erie Phosphorus Task Force (including some good ag folks) that looked at all of the sources of phosphorus in Lake Erie. They looked at industry, the oft-cited lawn fertilizer runoff, urban areas, and agriculture. No matter how you spin the numbers, agriculture is one of the contributors to the problem.

The industry needs to be proactive in addressing this.

“I am working primarily in the Western Lake Erie Basin watershed, so everything that does leave the field has the potential to head into the water system,” said Joe Nester, a northwest Ohio crop consultant. “We’re asking phosphorus to be soluble and get into the plant for crop production. We can’t ask it to not be soluble in a snow covered situation or a situation where you would have a likelihood of runoff. We need good soil contact and farmers have to manage that. It is a long-term process. If you miss an application because you can’t get it on when conditions aren’t right, it won’t be a problem as long as your house is in order. If you’ve been soil testing and applying, it is like a bank account and you need to put it back when the time is right.”

Implementing practices to prevent nutrient loss is also economically advantageous.

“Economics is going to drive this. These inputs are extremely expensive and nobody can afford to buy nutrients that do not go into the production of the crop,” Nester said. “With soil testing, good management, good record keeping, and a lot of common sense, we can keep those nutrients at home.”

The use of filter strips, accurate rates, zone sampling, variable rate technology fertilization, and proper timing of applications can be useful tools in avoiding nutrient loss. Nobody (except maybe the EPA) likes rules, but the water quality problems in Lake Erie must improve.

Agriculture needs to step up and take measures to reduce nutrient loss. After all, there is no need to have the rule if you aren’t putting the toothbrush in the toilet.

Do you want this in your drinking water? Neither do the people who rely on Lake Erie for their water supply. This was scooped right out of Lake Erie. These harmful algal blooms are partially due to too much phosphorus in Lake Erie, and Ohio agriculture is one contributor to the problem. Phosphorus loss needs to be better addressed by Ohio ag, because those who depend upon Lake Erie will be looking for someone to blame. Photo provided by Jeff Reutter, OSU Stone Lab director..

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