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Springfield STEM Academy Student's Science Fair Project Wins Ohio Environmental Award

Jun 29, 2020

A local high school student has received the 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, Ian 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 Ian planted six rows of soybeans in his school’s greenhouse.

Experimental rows of soybeans in Global Impact Stem Academy Greenhouse
Credit Contributed / Ian Spence

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.

Nitrate runoff from experiment
Credit Contributed / Ian Spence

“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." Spence says "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.”

Ian says compacted soil does tend to increase runoff. But he says 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. Or, he says, farmers could avoid running over the same spot in their fields more than once.

Environmental reporter Chris Welter is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.