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Environment & Climate Change

More grants for cover crops to protect Great Lakes

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Mark Brush
/
Michigan Radio

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is adding another $5 million in grants to help farmers near the Great Lakes plant cover crops.

Colleen Forestieri is with the Van Buren Conservation District.

She says it's one way to keep phosphorus from getting into Lake Erie and feeding the cyanobacteria.
"Cover crops help absorb those excess nutrients or scavenge those nutrients that are left from the cash crop and hang onto them over the winter so they're not washing into those water bodies," she says.

Another way farmers can retain the phosphorus is to build up organic matter in the soil. It acts as a sponge to absorb the nutrients. Farmers are also being encouraged to plant buffers surrounding their fields to keep water from flowing off farmland.

Forestieri says farmers used to routinely plant cover crops, because it kept both the soil and the nutrients on site, but that practice fell off after the advent of synthetic fertilizers.