Evaluating agricultural phosphorus

A group of like-minded organizations has come together to evaluate solutions for reducing agricultural phosphorus run-off into Lake Erie.

The collaboration, led by the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, has been approved for funding from the Canadian Agricultural Partnership to evaluate technologies that remove phosphorus from agricultural water run-off and drainage water.

Through the project, the Thames River Phosphorus Reduction Collaborative (PRC) is establishing a variety of practical site demonstrations in the Upper and Lower Thames River watershed to test various phosphorus removal methods and show how the nutrient might be intercepted.

Projects will be set up at end of field tiles, on the edge of municipal drains and at pump stations.

According to project manager Charlie Lalonde, the goal is to meet the 40 per cent phosphorus reduction target contained in the Canada-Ontario Lake Erie Action Plan and understand the efficiencies of the different products and systems.

“Ultimately, we want to develop solutions for farmers and the drainage sector that are practical, and establish a cost per kilogram of phosphorus removed that is cheaper than the cost at a sewage treatment plant,” Lalonde explained. “Farmers want to do the right thing for the environment and take action proactively and collaboratively with other sectors, creating trust and transparency on environmental matters.”

In tile drained fields, Hickenbottom and other surface inlets are used to transfer water directly to the tile and underground out of the field to municipal drain systems after heavy rain falls or snow melts.

Equipment will be installed near surface inlets to screen out silt containing phosphorus.

As well, engineered products that contain nanoparticles capable of absorbing phosphorus will be used to filter run-off water as it leaves a field tile.

The project will also test various technologies that pump water out, capture the phosphorus and release the water back into the watershed at stream edges or municipal pumping stations.