An innovative partnership between the Illinois Council on Best Management Practices, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation-Conservation Partners and the City of Springfield's City Water, Power and Light (CWLP) is focused on lowering nitrate levels in Lake Springfield.
The Illinois Council on Best Management Practices (CBMP) is coordinating the efforts of agricultural retailers, farmers, CWLP, the Sangamon County Soil & Water Conservation District and Lincoln Land Community College (LLCC). This includes working through the local ag retailers to encourage farmers to adopt a systems approach to nitrogen management combined with the N-Watch™ soil nitrate testing program. "We are excited about on-farm research that is showing us that managing nitrogen through a system of split applications can minimize environmental impact, optimize harvest yield and maximize nutrient utilization" said Dan Schaefer, CBMP's Director of Nutrient Stewardship.
CWLP will help cost-share the cost of the N-Watch soil testing program which allows farmers and their crop advisors to track the conversion of nitrogen to nitrate in the fields and use that information to improve the understanding of the nitrogen cycle in individual farm fields in the watershed. To assess how weather impacts nutrient movement, the Sangamon County SWCD is managing a system of rain and weather gauges in the watershed, and students at LLCC are taking scheduled in-stream water samples, testing for nitrate in the tributaries that feed Lake Springfield and sharing those results with CWLP to assess changes in nitrate levels.
Cover crops are also a Best Management Practice and CBMP and the Sangamon County SWCD are promoting the planting of more acres of cover crops in the watershed, another practice that can help improve water and soil quality. This program currently has 560 acres of cover crops on 15 farms.
"This innovative partnership is another example of how agriculture and urban partners are making progress by working together on the important goal of improving water quality" said Illinois Department of Agriculture Director Robert Flider. "Ultimately, these efforts to keep nutrients for the crop will improve agricultural production and reduce the need for costly water treatment systems, which benefits everyone" he added.
The National Fish & Wildlife Foundation-Conservation Partners is providing matching funding for this three year program. CBMP members include Illinois Corn Growers Assoc, Illinois Farm Bureau, Illinois Fertilizer & Chemical Assoc, Illinois Soybean Assoc, Illinois Pork Producers, Syngenta, Monsanto and GROWMARK Inc. The Illinois Nutrient Research & Education Council also helps support CBMP in its outreach and educational efforts with ag retailers and farmers. For more information on CBMP and the Lake Springfield program go to www.illinoiscbmp.org.