Water quality, nitrogen run off, and overall environmental preservation are hot button topics right now for the U.S. EPA and Illinois EPA, for consumers and for farmers. Illinois Corn Marketing Board has invested in further identifying the problem and determining appropriate solutions to address nitrogen run off concerns from agricultural lands.
The Indian Creek Mississippi River Basin Initiative is a project that focuses on the Indian Creek watershed in McLean and Livingston Counties. The watershed is one of the six primary watersheds of interest for the Illinois EPA. In order to help address Illinois EPA concerns and ensure that final measures taken are fair and workable to Illinois farmers, the Illinois Corn Marketing Board is helping to fund research in water quality monitoring and best management practices in this area, as well as funds to provide information and outreach to farmers based on the results.
The primary goal of the project is to develop baseline information about how much nitrogen runs off a field given historical management techniques. Measurements are taken again after best management practices are suggested to the farmers to determine if best management practices (like utilizing cover crops, applying nitrogen in the spring instead of the fall, and others) have any effect on nitrogen loss.
In the first year, the program has already seen some significant progress.
Thirty-seven percent of producers in the watershed are now enrolled in programs to enhance their conservation agricultural systems, which represents 32 percent of the watershed. The program aims to reach 50 percent of producers and 50 percent of acres and is well on its way to that goal.
Additionally, staff working on this project has met with 79 producers in the watershed out of 150 to discuss conservation practices.
According to Mike Plumer, a former University of Illinois Extension specialist hired to work on this project for Illinois Corn, the data collected from enrolled acres and farms will be compared with EPA monitors to also determine how much nitrogen is actually occurring from agricultural lands.
“We are comparing edge-of-field numbers to in-stream numbers to see the effect the best management practices are having on nitrogen concentrations within the watershed,” Plumer said. “This data will help us understand if our best management practices are really working.”