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BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – Illinois family farmers are working to preserve the soil and water on their farms for future generations by investing in research and implementation of conservation practices around the state. Although nutrient loss is a complex environmental issue that will require many solutions, farmers are committed to discovering what will work for each farmer, in each region of Illinois.
Farmer-led investments are uncovering opportunities for farmers to minimize nutrient loss while maximizing yield and minimizing economic risk.
Since 2013, Illinois farmers and agricultural retailers have invested over $30 million dollars into nutrient efficiency research through the Illinois Nutrient Research & Education Council (NREC). Additionally, Illinois corn and soybean checkoffs have invested farmer dollars into programs like Precision Conservation Management, which works to uncover the variety of solutions that might work to address the problem.
Just this week, the Illinois Farm Bureau (IFB) announced its seventh consecutive year of Nutrient Stewardship Grants. The grant program is a multi-year effort that has supported 120 projects in over 70 counties to help promote local nutrient stewardship, soil health and water quality projects.
The goal is that farmers can draw from these different sources of research and voluntarily take the next step in adopting the practices that best fit their farms.
Yet, while the ag community can see progress, family farmers are still working towards the 2025 goals while they mitigate ongoing challenges.
Despite the hurdles, strong strides are being made. Illinois NREC research is helping farmers understand how nutrient application and timing can impact nutrient loss and crop growth. One study shows that the most important element for increasing yield potential and nutrient use is assuring adequate nitrogen availability at the start of the growing season.
Other studies show that tile nutrient loss is not simply a matter of over-fertilization. This means farmers must do more than simply apply less fertilizers. They must determine what additional practices will work to keep the nutrients in place for their crop.
A recent report by the Agricultural Nutrient Policy Council (ANPC) released December 9 highlights many of the efforts in Illinois and in 15 other states, all an explosion of positive and constructive activity to make progress.