Challenge: Phosphorus Capture & Recycling in Farming


Phosphorus is critical to agricultural production; the nutrient exists naturally in soil and is also applied on fields in a commercial form. Excess phosphorus is lost into water systems in large rain and melt events through surface runoff or through sub-surface drainage systems. In the Great Lakes watershed, most fields are drained using perforated plastic pipes placed 3 feet deep, and 30-50 feet apart which outlet into ditches and watercourses. Effective drainage is critical to agriculture and oftentimes surface inlet structures (ie. catch basins) are installed in low-lying areas of the field to drop excess water below ground to the watercourse. There are a number of points in which sorption materials could be used to capture phosphorus before it reached the watercourse, including drainage outlets, inlets and on the field itself.  A key issue is that traditional sorption materials work best in still water, while agricultural drainage systems cannot be compromised with reduced flow capacity in major storm events. Another opportunity is for captured phosphorus to be recycled. 

Ideas for solutions:

  • Design inlets with the capacity to absorb phosphorus at the surface while maintaining an adequate surface water flow during excessive rain events to avoid the plants to be submerged.
  • Design of a sorption material that can capture phosphorus and remove it in the appropriate conditions to reuse it for plants.

WANT TO KNOW MORE? Watch the webinar HERE

Water Outlet Field Drainage

Challenge Leader

The following organisation(s) submitted and designed this challenge, and will provide experts and data to help teams develop their solutions.

OFA is the largest general farm organisation in Ontario, representing more than 37,000 farm families across the province. OFA works to represent and champion the interests of Ontario farmers through government relations, farm policy recommendations, lobby efforts, research, community representation and media relations.


Experts are available to help teams understand the issue and develop their solutions.

Charles Lalonde

Independent Farming Professional

Mel Luymes

Principal Consultant