Illinois farmers are taking steps to learn about nutrient loss
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[June 20, 2014]
stakeholders are working to solve the problem of excess nutrients,
including nitrogen and phosphorus, making their way from Illinois
waterways to the Gulf of Mexico. Illinois farmers are actively
involved, learning ways they can do their part and implementing
voluntary conservation practices and nutrient management solutions
on their farms.
excess nutrients originate from many sources, including
fertilizers used in agriculture, on golf courses and on suburban
lawns; erosion of nutrient-rich soils; and discharges from
industrial and municipal sewage treatment plants.
"Everyone - people in urban and suburban areas, rural areas and
in agriculture - has contributed to the problem of nutrient
runoff. Everyone now has the opportunity to be part of the
solution," said Director of Natural and Environmental Resources
at the Illinois Farm Bureau® (IFB), Lauren Lurkins.
Illinois Department of Agriculture, Illinois EPA and other
stakeholders have been working over the past year to create a
strategy to reduce nutrient losses in the state. At the Illinois
Agricultural Legislative Roundtable, held on June 11, 2014 in
Bloomington, Ill., the subjects of water quality and nutrient
loss reduction in Illinois were tackled.
Rather than start from ground zero, Illinois’s strategybuilds on
existing voluntary conservation and nutrient management
programs, according to Lurkins. Some of those existing programs
have been developed by Illinois agricultural groups, including
the Illinois Council on Best Management Practices (CBMP) and the
Illinois Nutrient Research and Education Council (NREC). IFB
has voting positions on the Boards of Directors for both CBMP
and NREC, and actively represents its members in both
component of the strategy is CBMP’s cover crop initiative, in
which regional specialists will work with farmers to educate
them on the use of cover crops to utilize excess nutrients,
thereby preventing nutrient runoff into streams. These
specialists will also work with community colleges to develop
networks of cover crop expertise. Other voluntary practices
contemplated by the strategy include promotion of the 4Rs of
nutrient stewardship (Right Source, right Rate, Right Time,
Right Place) in CBMP’s Keep it for the Crop program, precision
technology, soil conservation structures and manure management.
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Illinois farmers also currently pay an assessment of 75 cents per
ton of bulk fertilizer sold in the state to support NREC, which
funds research and education programs to address the role of
nutrients in enhancing Illinois crop production while minimizing
environmental impact. For the 2014 program year, $2.5 million was
available for research and education projects.
"For farmers, there is no 'one-size-fits-all' approach. Farmers now
have the opportunity to learn which tools and approaches are
available to them, and then implement those that will work best on
their farm," said Lurkins.
A draft of the nutrient loss reduction strategy for Illinois will go
up for public comment beginning in mid-July. The state strategy
currently includes a provisional target to reduce overall nitrogen
usage by 15 percent and overall phosphorus usage by 25 percent by
[Text received; ILLINOIS FARM BUREAU]