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Springfield Student Wins State Award For Farm Runoff Research

tractor in farm field
Jean Beaufort
Public Domain Pictures

A high school student in Springfield has won this year’s Governor’s Award For Excellence in Environmental Protection Research.

Ian Spence is a student at the STEM Academy in Springfield. For his science fair project this year, Spence wanted to know if compacting the dirt on agricultural land affects the amount of fertilizer that ends up running off the land and into local creeks and streams.

So Spence planted six rows of soybeans in his school’s greenhouse. For three of the rows, he compacted the dirt down by hand. For the other three, he left the soil loose. Then he fertilized his crops, and measured the amount of nitrates that ended up running off into the water.

“I came across soil compaction and fertilizer runoff because those were what I saw to be two main problems in the agricultural and environmental industry. So I just sort of worked out a way to combine the two and really see if I could find a way to decrease them,” he says.

Spence says says compacted soil does tend to increase runoff, but there are some simple solutions that can help.

For instance, he says farmers can watch to make sure that the tread on the wheels of their heavy equipment isn’t worn down, so the weight gets distributed evenly. Farmers can also could avoid running over the same spot in their fields more than once.

Chris Welter is an Environmental Reporter at WYSO through Report for America. In 2017, he completed the radio training program at WYSO's Eichelberger Center for Community Voices. Prior to joining the team at WYSO, he did boots-on-the-ground conservation work and policy research on land-use issues in southwest Ohio as a Miller Fellow with the Tecumseh Land Trust.