SOIL LOSS: A CASE FOR REDUCED TILLAGE

Agriculture is a large portion of the economy in Illinois.  Every farmer in Illinois has their own method of planting and raising their crop.  Every farmer must make decisions on what is the best way to raise their crop with the conditions and location they have.  Tillage, which is when farmers dig into the soil and mix it, is one decision that farmers make every year.  Three types of tillage exist conventional tillage, reduced tillage, and no tillage.  This blog is going to focus on why farmers are utilizing reduced tillage.

Reduced tillage is sometimes referred to as conservation tillage and is just what it sounds like, less tillage than conventional tillage, but more tillage than no tillage.  Farmers may choose to utilize reduced tillage for a variety of reasons including prevention of soil loss, reduced soil compaction, improved soil’s organic matter, and decrease in labor cost.

Soil loss is a growing problem today. The soil is vital for agriculture, and we are losing our soil faster than our earth can make it.  It takes the earth 500 to 1000 years to create an inch of topsoil.  When we are losing an inch of topsoil every 20 years.  With the reduced tillage practice, we can reduce the soil erosion because of the crop residue and the roots. Think about weeding a garden, when you pull a weed usually soil will come up with the weed.  This is because the roots hold the soil.  With reduced tillage, the previous crops roots are still buried beneath the ground and are still able to anchor the soil in place to prevent loose particles from running off through water or the wind.

There are three sizes of soil particles, listed from largest to smallest, sand, silt, and clay.  Over time these particles can squish tighter together.  This causes a problem for the crops because the crops need air spaces in the soil to absorb water and other nutrients from the soil.  Heavy machinery such as tractors can compact the soil over time, and because reduced tillage requires less preparation for planting the soil is not driven over as much, and results in a decrease in soil compaction.  Look at this triangle showing the different steps and machinery needed for the different styles of tillage.  (Insert Tractor triangle photo)

Reduced tillage can increase organic matter because the decomposition process is slower when the residue is left on the top of the soil and will cause an increase in nutrients on the top layers of the soil, and overall increase soil health over time.

Less labor is another great advantage of reduced tillage.  Because there contains less steps in the process for reduced tillage less time will need to be invested as well as less money will be needed for equipment or labor cost.

Reduced tillage is a great option to help reduce soil erosion, reduce soil compaction, increase organic matter, and reduce time and labor. If you are interested in learning more about different soil tillage management systems, please review this document linked here: Soil Management and Tillage.

Mary Marsh
University of Illinois

ALL WE WANT FOR CHRISTMAS: MORE CONSERVATION

christmas-listIL Corn and the ag industry has introduced some management practices and talked about some concepts that are different for farmers, trying to help them improve the water quality coming from IL farms.

Farmers are anxious to learn, some are trying out a few new practices, others are watching and learning from their neighbors, but …

WE NEED MORE FARMERS TO TRY MORE CONSERVATION PRACTICES.

Farmers are farming because they love it, but also because they need to provide for their own families.  So trying something completely new, and risking tens of thousands of dollars or more in the process, is a scary thing.

Research tells us that trying cover crops will cost *this much* and improve soil health *this much* while also decreasing nutrient loss *this much.*  But the research put into practice on some farms doesn’t always work out exactly the same.  Farmers get nervous to try new things … and that’s understandable!

But Santa, we’ve got to make our water quality better.  We’ve got to lose less of the expensive fertilizer we’re putting on our fields.  We’ve got to invest in our land and preserve it for future generations.  Farmers definitely want to do this!  It is their core value and the foundation of their farming business.

So one thing we’d love for Christmas is for more farmers to TRY a new conservation practice on their fields this year.  Maybe they just try it on one field, maybe they branch out to several.  Maybe they talk with a neighbor and try the same thing she had success with in 2016.  We’re making progress, but MORE progress would sure be nice.

Whisper in their ears – would you Santa?  We’ll keep providing the outreach, education, and programming in the meantime …

Note: In 2016, IL Corn offered several new educational programs for farmers!  These are just a few:

  • cover crop coupons – to try cover crops at a reduced cost for the first year
  • field days – to see how different management techniques were actually working on farms in Illinois
  • interactive maps – to help farmers understand when to apply nitrogen and when not to apply
  • Precision Conservation Management – a pilot program that helps farmers understand conservation practices AND the financial implications that correlate with them
  • water testing – to understand how much of the expensive fertilizer a farmer was losing from his/her field

Mitchell_LindsayLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

FARMING FOR DUMMIES: COVER CROPS

Near the coast of Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico, there is an area the size of Connecticut that is completely void of any life. This area, which is known as the Gulf’s “dead zone,” is created by a number of environmental factors acting in tandem. 9-26-16imageaOne contributor is fertilizer runoff, which contains the macro-nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus, is leached out of soils and into waterways (known as erosion), like the Mississippi River. The water pollution originates in all areas (both from cities and farmland), and these macro-nutrients are carried downstream and pour into the Gulf of Mexico. Because the nutrient levels become so high, algal blooms occur rapidly, depleting much of the oxygen in the area (this condition is otherwise known as hypoxia). Discharge from wastewater management systems is another large contributor to the hypoxia problem. This expeditious depletion of oxygen kills off any animal or plant that once lived there.

Scientists discovered the “dead zone” in the Gulf in 1972. It is the largest man-made hypoxic zone in the world, and in 2002, the zone became as large as the size of Massachusetts. Farmers today are doing everything they can to help decrease the hypoxic zone. One significant way they are minimizing their impact, as well as helping to improve waterways and promote general soil health, farmers have begun to use cover crops.

9-26-16imageb

Cover crops include any crop that grows between periods of regular crop production. Cover crops benefit agricultural land because they enrich soil and protect it from erosion. Their extensive root system improves aeration in soil, allowing more air and water to infiltrate. Additionally, the root system creates pathways for a diverse array of soil animals that break down unavailable nutrients and make them available for crop uptake – an acre of healthy soil has the equivalent of 4 cows worth of microorganisms living in it! Cover crops create a more fertile and resilient agriculture field that can increase crop yield while also maintaining soil health.

9-26-16imagec

Cover crops also reduce soil erosion caused by sediments, nutrients, and agricultural chemicals. The root system of these crops and the soil’s biological community take up or hold onto excess nitrogen, preventing it from leaching into waterways. Not only does reduced leaching mean less nutrient runoff into the Gulf (and therefore decreasing the effects of hypoxia), but this also improves the quality of drinking water over time.

Planting cover crops is very beneficial to both the environment and to crop production. When planting, it is important to use a cover crop that compliments the following harvest to maximize the benefits from the cover crop. You can even create cover crop ‘cocktails’ to achieve a multitude of benefits at one time; a field that uses a mix of cover crops is able to take up excess nutrients, suppress weeds, and create soil aggregation all in one area!

If you’re thinking of planting cover crops, whether it is on a small or large-scale, remember to do your research and start small. Additionally, if you want to learn more about cover crops you can attend an Illinois Demo Day, held in multiple counties throughout the summertime. If we all start to utilize cover crops within our agricultural lands, the soil will be more sustainable, and we may see a significant change in the size of the “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico.

cleary_caeli
Caeli Cleary
University of Illinois

HERE’S A FARMER YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT: TED MOTTAZ

Mottaz_TedIllinois Corn is a strong supporter of conservation practices to ensure that farms can remain sustainable for generations to come. Ted Mottaz is a Peoria County farmer who has taken charge of the future of his farm by implementing conservation practices.

Ted even uses his position as District 8 Director for the Illinois Corn Growers Association and his position on the Illinois Nutrient Research & Education Council to promote the use of best management practices through grassroots campaigns and meetings with government leaders. Beyond that, Ted serves as a model for his community and gatekeeper of information about conservation practices.

Let’s take a closer look at the main four methods Ted uses on his farm: reduced tillage practices, drainage water management, nutrient management, and soil nutrient testing.

Reduced Tillage Practices

conservation tillageThe Mottaz family farm has used conservation tillage and no-till for a quarter of a century. Put simply, tillage is a way that farmers prepare land to grow crops (think about the classic image of the farmer with a horse-drawn plow. Instead, now, tillage machines and tractors do the work on a larger scale and more quickly). Tillage digs and stirs the soil to loosen it up and make it presumably easier to plant the crop. Yet, eliminating or decreasing the use of tillage prevents the likelihood of soil erosion, by which vital nutrients from last year’s crops are washed away. Additionally, reducing tillage helps protect water quality by reducing erosion. The remnants of the previous crop can provide nutrients and organic matter to the composition of the soil, improving its overall quality. Read up on some other benefits of conservation tillage.

Drainage Water Management

The Mottaz family uses drainage water management (DWM) to control the water on and below the surface of their farmland. Through an inexpensive structure using drainage pipes called tiles (think plumbing for farmland) and a simple control system, farmers can adjust how much water is on top of and within their farm’s soil. This system is beneficial in that it traps water to increase the yield (quantity and quality) of crops and maximizes the absorption of nutrients by the crop. As learned earlier, soil can retain many nutrients from last year’s crops as they slowly decompose. Also, the use of the nutrients by the crop decrease the risk of environmental impact by essentially “cleaning” the water of its nutrients before release. Learn more about DWM here.

Nutrient Management (The 4 R’s)

4Rs
Credit: NutrientStewardship.com

Since the 1960s, the Mottaz farm has applied nutrients such as nitrogen based on the 4R system. The “4 R’s” is a pretty well-known abbreviation for the 4R System of Nutrient Stewardship. It’s an easy way to remember the four major parts of nutrient management: Right Rate, Right Source, Right Time, Right Place. Essentially the 4Rs argue that applying nutrients (e.g. think fertilizer) must be done in a way that will allow the crop to use a sufficient amount of the provided nutrients without being wasteful or doing damage to the health of the soil or crop.

A comparable but more basic example would be watering a plant. Every plant has an ideal amount of water it needs based on factors like size and type of plant (Rate).  There’s also a certain frequency at which it needs the water to be applied – It’s not ideal to water a plant again an hour after it was just watered (Time). Contaminated water or lemonade are not as effective as treated water (Source). It also doesn’t make sense to water just the leaves when we know nutrients are absorbed by the roots within the soil (Place). However, nutrient application for farmers needs to be more rigorous so that it protects the environment while increasing the health and yield of the crops and decreasing wasteful nutrient loss. Find out more about nutrient management here.

Soil Nutrient Testing

While the 4R system may give farmers an understanding of nutrient management’s importance, soil nutrient testing gives Ted a practical and effective way to determine if the 4Rs’s are being upheld. For instance, a farmer might apply a nutrient on Monday and on Tuesday morning, he or she might be met with an unexpected storm front that lasts until the following Monday. Soil nutrient testing after the storm system passes will give the farmer an idea whether enough of the nutrient remains to be sufficient for the crops or if a significant amount has been washed away and requires reapplication. This is an extremely basic example but it highlights why farmers need to test their soil. Testing helps make sure that farmers are not only being cost-effective but also minimizing the risk of over-saturating the soil which could negatively impact the environment and crops.

Ted’s elected conservation practices are just a few of the many choices available to a farmer. The Illinois Council on Best Management Practices (CBMP), in order to bolster the goal of the Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy, created an interactive conservation story map where Illinois farmers can advocate for conservation practices through storytelling. You can learn more about Ted’s story there and find out more about the numerous methods that farmers use to protect their land and, by extension, their neighbors and communities.

McDonald_Taylor

Taylor McDonald
Communications Assistant
IL Corn

# TBT: HOW FARMERS ARE PROTECTING ILLINOIS WATER

This post really is a vital foundational piece to understanding one of the biggest goals for Illinois farmers in the coming years.  We want to get better at understanding and using the practices that preserve water quality.  If you missed this the first time around – or just need a refresher – read on!

The IL Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy was released last week.  It was a big deal for farmers.  But maybe (probably?) you have no idea what it is or what it means.  If so, this post is for you.

Farmers apply nitrogen, phosphorus and other nutrients to their fields to help crops grow and maximize yields.  This is pretty much like you applying MiracleGro to your potted house plants or your garden, but on a huge scale.

water quality what your strategy

In a perfect world, farmers apply the nutrients, the plants grow enormously big, strong, and prolific because they are “eating” the nutrients, and everyone is happy.  But what happens when the nutrients are applied at the wrong time?  In the wrong amount?  Or the plants don’t grow and don’t use the nutrients like what happened to farmers during the drought?

In each of those cases, the nutrients are left in the field.  And when the spring rains come, the nutrients hitch a ride with the running water to the nearest ditch, then a creek, then a stream, a river, and end up exactly where we don’t want them.

This is bad for clean water, but also bad for farmers.  They paid for those nutrients (and nutrients are VERY expensive!) and they really want the plants to use them instead of watching them escape the field.

So the Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy is basically exactly what it says – its a list of ways that farmers can help minimize nutrient loss from their fields.  The EPA has written the list, and now they leave it to ag associations and agribusiness to help farmers understand and implement the strategies on their own fields.

Of course IL Corn is doing just that – along with Illinois Farm Bureau, Illinois Council on Best Management Practices, Illinois Pork Producers Association, GROWMARK, Syngenta, and others.

What are some of the things farmers are being asked to do?

1. Change the timing of their nitrogen applications.  It makes a lot of sense for farmers to apply nutrients when the plant needs them most to grow.  The problem is that equipment and availability doesn’t always make it possible for every farmer to apply their nitrogen at the exact same time of year … but we’re working on helping farmers through that.

2. Change the amount of nutrients they apply.  Farmers like this one because applying fewer nutrients means paying less money.  We’re encouraging farmers to do soil testing throughout their field, determine which areas of the field need a boost and which do not, and then apply nutrients only where needed.  New GPS technology helps with this and makes the process very efficient.

3. Grow cover crops.  We’ve figured out that for some farmers, applying nutrients in the fall, but also planting a crop that will grow a bit in the fall, hold the nitrogen within the plant through the winter, and then kill that crop before planting corn in the spring can work very well.  The techniques will be different for every farmer in Illinois because of our diverse weather from north to south.

These are just a couple of the options, but each can make a big difference for individual farmers and for the water supply!

Maybe hearing from a real farmer will help!  This is Garry Niemeyer, Illinois farmer, talking about what his conservation plan is for one of his fields near the Springfield watershed.

Do you have more questions about clean water, nutrient loss, or the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy?  I’d love to answer them!

Mitchell_LindsayLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Manager

 

WATER TESTING IS ONE SOLUTION

Our IL Corn office continues to work extensively on preserving the quality of the water in Illinois.  What that basically means for us is that we’re working really hard with farmers to help them understand the problem and their opportunities to be a part of the solution.  We’re also working with regulators (like the EPA) to show them the progress we’re making with farmers and with other cooperators and interested parties like the National Fish and Wildlife Federation who give us funding for programming to help promote clean water.

One of our biggest pushes right now is to get farmers thinking about testing the water coming off of their fields.  (To understand better why water coming off of their fields matters, read this background post!)

You might not have thought about it, but the old adage “April Showers bring May Flowers” comes into play.  We all know that it typically rains more often in the spring.  As the fields are starting to “wake up” from the winter, they often get tons of rainwater falling on them water testing sitesand the farmers that have applied nutrients for their spring seedlings likely see some of those nutrients washed away in the spring rains.

So we’re starting now.  We might not prevent that nutrient loss in 2016, but we hope we’ll help farmers see the nutrients they are losing this spring to help them change their practices for 2017.  Farmers definitely want clean water, but they also want their seedlings to have access to all the needed nutrients as they grow.  AND they don’t want to watch nutrients they paid for be washed into the ditches and streams in the area.

Farmers want to fix this problem.

Our education starts with water testing sits all over the state.  We’re encouraging farmers to stop at their tiles and ditches this spring and bring water samples to testing sites.  We want them to see on a weekly basis how changes in precipitation and timing can impact nutrient loss and water quality on their farms.

It’s all about the environment and leaving the resources a little better than we found them.  Farmers are definitely willing to do their part – and with a little help and education, we know we’ll get them there!

Mitchell_LindsayLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Manager

ALL WE WANT FOR CHRISTMAS: A FUNCTIONING STATE AND FEDERAL GOVERNMENT

dear santa

 

 

It’s become a tradition and we aren’t stopping now!  Want to know what’s on IL Corn’s Christmas list this year?  We’re hoping Santa brings us …

 

 

3. A Functioning State and Federal Government

Here’s the thing: an organization like ours appreciates the opportunity to get things done.  Getting things done within a non-functioning government framework is very, very difficult.  Ergo, our organization isn’t getting anything done for farmers – and it’s frustrating.

Illinois State House Capitol - Springfield
Illinois State House Capitol – Springfield

Illinois is in a bit different scenario than some of our fellow Midwestern ag states.  Most of them are dealing with the same frustrating federal government status quo, but they find opportunities to benefit farmers in their states by moving state initiatives and they still accomplish some good.

In Illinois, we can’t move state OR federal initiatives.  So we often feel like we’re twiddling our thumbs.

In spite of the broken state of our state and federal government, we have accomplished a few things:

  1. The livestock industry in Illinois is growing.  Certainly, this has much to do with market signals that are screaming at farmers to invest, but the economic impact that results from investment in the livestock industry (an estimated $70 million!) can’t hurt our broken state.
  2. We are effectively working with our state EPA and other agencies to clean up Illinois water.  To date, we have several important projects going on – both research and educational – to help farmers understand the VOLUNTARY practices that will minimize nutrient run off.  When we keep the practices voluntary but still accomplish the goal, we relieve the burden of paperwork for farmers and the cost of implementation for our state.
  3. We’ve secured some federal grant monies to help with that fuel pump standardization priority that I mentioned yesterday.  With any luck, many of the fuel pumps will be ready to handle higher blends of ethanol by this time next year!

Though we’ve found places to make a difference and we’re continuing to positively impact the farmers in Illinois, it would definitely be nice to have a functioning government to help and not hinder our growth.

Santa, this is a huge ask, but can you make our government work!?

 

Mitchell_LindsayLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Manager

 

 

We also want:

5. Better relationships with our customers – overseas and domestic

4. Pump standardization

2. More Stable Farm Profitability

CONSERVATION IS A PRIORITY IN THESE THREE STEPS …

Illinois is smack in the middle of a huge “water quality” push.  What that means in non-farmer, non-agriculture terms is that the agricultural industry is working overtime right now to try to teach farmers how they can grow the same or better yields, using the same or less amount of fertilizer.  Using the same or less to grow the same or more equals less fertilizer running off the field into local streams.

It’s called efficiency and we strive to get better every single day.

  1. Don’t apply fertilizer if the soil temp is above 50 degrees.

anhyrous applicationThis has to sound confusing for a non farmer because putting some fertilizer out on your garden, you surely pay little to no attention what the soil temperature is.  But farmers are applying anhydrous ammonia which injects nitrogen into the ground.  At a cooler temperature, the nitrogen is fixed in the soil and does not leach into the water or the air as easily.  This preserves water quality AND helps the farmer keep the valuable, expensive fertilizer he/she paid for.

 

2. Use soil tests to apply only the fertilizer you need, where you need it.

On-farm technology has come a long way.  Using GPS systems, farmers can now test their soil in various areas of the field, find out how much nitrogen already exists in each area to grow the next crop, and only apply the nitrogen that is needed in the areas it is needed.  Using this technology, farmers avoid over applying nitrogen (and having extra sitting in the soil that might leave via a heavy spring rain) and avoid paying for expensive fertilizer they don’t need in the first place.

3.  Plant cover crops.

cover crop demo
A group of farmers and educators stand in a winter ready field of cover crops.

In some regions, it makes sense for farmers to plant a crop that sits on the field through the winter to take up the nitrogen in the soil and hold it until the next crop (corn) grows enough to need it.

Cover crops are usually planted before the previous year’s crops are harvested.  They are allowed to grow and “take hold” in the fall before the winter weather kills them off.  These plants take up the leftover nitrogen in the soil and hold it all winter.  They also provide numerous other benefits for soil erosion, organic matter, and more.

In the spring, the farmer kills the cover crop and plants the primary crop.  As the primary crop grows, the cover crop decomposes and releases the needed nitrogen for the primary crop.  It’s a great system that provides so many conservation benefits!

LLindsay Mitchell 11/14indsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Manager

 

HOW FARMERS ARE PROTECTING ILLINOIS WATER

The IL Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy was released last week.  It was a big deal for farmers.  But maybe (probably?) you have no idea what it is or what it means.  If so, this post is for you.

Farmers apply nitrogen, phosphorus and other nutrients to their fields to help crops grow and maximize yields.  This is pretty much like you applying MiracleGro to your potted house plants or your garden, but on a huge scale.

water quality what your strategy

In a perfect world, farmers apply the nutrients, the plants grow enormously big, strong, and prolific because they are “eating” the nutrients, and everyone is happy.  But what happens when the nutrients are applied at the wrong time?  In the wrong amount?  Or the plants don’t grow and don’t use the nutrients like what happened to farmers during the drought?

In each of those cases, the nutrients are left in the field.  And when the spring rains come, the nutrients hitch a ride with the running water to the nearest ditch, then a creek, then a stream, a river, and end up exactly where we don’t want them.

This is bad for clean water, but also bad for farmers.  They paid for those nutrients (and nutrients are VERY expensive!) and they really want the plants to use them instead of watching them escape the field.

So the Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy is basically exactly what it says – its a list of ways that farmers can help minimize nutrient loss from their fields.  The EPA has written the list, and now they leave it to ag associations and agribusiness to help farmers understand and implement the strategies on their own fields.

Of course IL Corn is doing just that – along with Illinois Farm Bureau, Illinois Council on Best Management Practices, Illinois Pork Producers Association, GROWMARK, Syngenta, and others.

What are some of the things farmers are being asked to do?

1. Change the timing of their nitrogen applications.  It makes a lot of sense for farmers to apply nutrients when the plant needs them most to grow.  The problem is that equipment and availability doesn’t always make it possible for every farmer to apply their nitrogen at the exact same time of year … but we’re working on helping farmers through that.

2. Change the amount of nutrients they apply.  Farmers like this one because applying fewer nutrients means paying less money.  We’re encouraging farmers to do soil testing throughout their field, determine which areas of the field need a boost and which do not, and then apply nutrients only where needed.  New GPS technology helps with this and makes the process very efficient.

3. Grow cover crops.  We’ve figured out that for some farmers, applying nutrients in the fall, but also planting a crop that will grow a bit in the fall, hold the nitrogen within the plant through the winter, and then kill that crop before planting corn in the spring can work very well.  The techniques will be different for every farmer in Illinois because of our diverse weather from north to south.

These are just a couple of the options, but each can make a big difference for individual farmers and for the water supply!

Maybe hearing from a real farmer will help!  This is Garry Niemeyer, Illinois farmer, talking about what his conservation plan is for one of his fields near the Springfield watershed.

Do you have more questions about clean water, nutrient loss, or the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy?  I’d love to answer them!

Mitchell_LindsayLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Manager

 

N WATCH SAVES THE DAY!

Earlier this month we’ve established that nutrient runoff in Illinois is a complicated thing and that we’ve got Illinois Director of Agriculture Bob Flider on our side.  As we dive further into water quality month, let’s explore one problem in central Illinois and efforts on behalf of Illinois farmers to correct it.

The Council on Best Management Practices (CBMP), funded by IL Corn and other commodity groups and agri-businesses, realized early on that the drought of 2012 was going to be bad news for water quality.  It was almost a perfect storm – pun intended.

There was no rain during the 2012 growing season, which left the corn growing significantly less than anticipated in early 2012 and using significantly less nitrogen than farmers applied.  That left a bunch of extra nitrogen sitting in the soil not being used by any plants.  Then, heavy rains hit Illinois in early 2013 delaying planting season until much later than usual.  All that extra rain flushed the extra nitrogen away from the fields and into the drinking water.

And actually, though we anticipated a big problem the problem was smaller than we thought.  Remember this?  There wasn’t a larger problem in the Gulf of Mexico.

But there was one community significantly affected.  Springfield, IL was dealing with higher than usual nitrates in their water and they had no water treatment system available to deal with it.  The EPA standard is 10 parts per billion and the water in Lake Springfield got dangerously close.  Springfield’s problems were greater than other central Illinois communities because of the soil types in that area and their water drainage capacity.

Enter N Watch.  CBMP realized that this would be an issue so they alerted the city of Springfield early on.  They then commenced N Watch to measure the nitrogen left in fields draining into Lake Springfield and determine a course of action to stop the runoff.

This year, N Watch has over 5000 soil samples over 300 different field sites.  They are monitoring different practices, different soil types, and different nitrogen application timings to figure out how nitrogen moves throughout the soils and hopefully prevent this from happening again.

Find out how Illinois farmers are using the data from N Watch to launch another proactive solution next week … cover crops!

phil thorntonPhil Thornton
ICGA/ICMB Value Enhanced Project Director