A conservation tour on Tuesday, August 19 around Fairbury, Ill., will explore innovative approaches to reducing nutrient runoff from farm fields. Fertilizers flowing from fields into rivers and lakes, along with nutrients from lawns, gardens and leaky septic systems, can contribute to huge algal blooms like the one in Lake Erie that forced the city of Toledo, Ohio, to declare a drinking water ban last week.
The recent drinking water ban in Toledo—caused by a population explosion of toxin-producing cyanobacteria, often called “blue-green algae”— highlights the importance of reducing nutrient runoff into waterways, notes Chad Watts. Watts is project director for the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC), one of the hosts of the tour along with the Livingston County Soil and Water Conservation District.
Farmers, town residents and scientists have teamed up in the Indian Creek watershed in Livingston County to develop an innovative, far-reaching program of nutrient management practices that are both environmentally and economically sustainable. In fact, demonstrations and research results from the Indian Creek Watershed Project are guiding other farm conservation efforts around the country, notes Watts.
The August 19 tour will kick off at 8:30 am at the Fairbury Baptist Church at 701 North 7th Street in Fairbury and last until 2:00 pm, including a provided lunch. The free tour will provide an up-close look at the best management practices being demonstrated in the watershed, and the research that is testing their impacts.
High-tech tools including drones, cover-crop-seeding robots and coated nitrogen fertilizer pellets will dominate the scene at the Marcus Maier Farm in rural Livingston County. At the Duane Dassow Farm, tour participants will explore cover crop test plots and look deep into a soil pit with Roger Windhorn of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Other stops on the tour will include a real-time fish count in Indian Creek conducted by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, as well as an exploration of water quality data from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and a speaker from Illinois American Water Company.
“One of the most powerful things about the Indian Creek Watershed Project is how it’s brought together stakeholders from throughout the community,” notes Watts. “The tour on August 19 will really demonstrate those connections, and showcase what we are learning about how to keep nutrients on the field, where they can nurture crops, rather than in streams and lakes.”
Registration is free, but participants are asked to call the Livingston County Soil and Water Conservation District at (815) 844-6127, extension 3, to reserve a space on the tour. For more information, visit www.ctic.org/IndianCreek.