Nutrient cycling and water quality are topics that have been recently thrust to the forefront of agricultural research with the creation of state and federal Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategies. Applied science and information-based approaches should guide decision-making around associated policy and regulation.
In 2014, a partnership between Waterborne Environmental, Illinois Corn Growers Association (ICGA) and Illinois Council on Best Management Practices (CBMP) formed. The partnership evolved and now includes a variety of nutrient and water quality field and modeling studies.
In the beginning, ICGA, Waterborne and CBMP began work on a multi-year Demonstration Farms Partnership Program that began with four sites in central Illinois in 2015. The goal was to collect baseline agricultural nutrient loss data and quantify the value and impact of certain field management practices on nutrient loss.
Subsurface tile flow monitoring, automated water sampling for nutrients and meteorological monitoring are key components of this study. Early study design success led to the addition of two more sites in central Illinois in 2016 and those sites have allowed the group to begin to compare nutrient losses (nitrate, ammonium, phosphorus) from different in-field management practices, such as cover crops, tillage and nitrogen management.
This year Waterborne also started working with the Soil Health Partnership (SHP), an initiative from the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), to enhance agricultural productivity and sustainability through improved soil health. Waterborne and SHP will begin a novel study to pair soil health characterization with water quality metrics. This unique approach provides a more comprehensive picture of nutrient management. The four sites continuing in 2016 will serve research purposes and will become a “classroom” for numerous CBMP field days to allow CBMP to reach out to farmers and begin conversations about water quality issues and possible solutions.
Two of the Demonstration Farm sites have recently been in the news and collaborators are excited to share what they have been learning.
- Illinois Central College: http://www.centralillinoisproud.com/news/local-news/earth-day-from-the-earth-experts
- Marshall County: http://www.soilhealthpartnership.org/newsletter.html
Your corn grower associations are accomplishing so much good work in this environmental/sustainability area by partnering with other appropriate groups. We continue to reap benefits for you as we research best management practices and help you understand what can work on your farm.