In the Media

Farmers, ag retailers seek nutrient-loss solutions

Agri-News:   A pilot program partnering farmers with ag retailers to investigate nutrient stewardship practices at the local level will be implemented this spring. more

January seminars for farmers on innovative soil, water conservation practices

The Gazette-Democrat:  Illinois farmers are invited to one of three seminars planned throughout the state which will focus on innovative soil and water conservation practices. more

Illinois Soybean Association Honors CBMP

Agri News: The Council on Best Management Practices receives the Excellence in Freedom to Operate Award for efforts that help Illinois soybean farmers more

November Nitrogen Management Bulletin

Dr. Emerson Nafziger with the University of Illinois discusses his assessment of soil nitrogen content, and what to expect for nitrogen management in 2017. more

FarmWeek: Iowa and Illinois Farmers Compare Strategies

Illinois farmers embarked on a bus tour of Iowa, meeting with Iowa's governor and others about nutrient loss reduction strategy efforts. more

Cover Crops Making an Impact in the Midwest

Illinois Farmer Today discusses the many ways cover crops are gaining traction throughout the Midwest. more

USGS/USDA Research Show Big BMP Benefits

According to new research from the USGS and USDA, BMP adoption can reduce nutrient losses by 1/3rd. more

Quad-City Times: Farmer Working With the Environment

Henry County farmer Gary Asay is working to protect water quality by implementing the best management practices such as cover crops on his farm. more

FarmWeek: Getting the Most Bang for Your Buck

FarmWeek discusses managing nutrients to maximize profits and reduce unnecessary losses. more

Researcher Stresses Importance of Water Testing

University of Illinois researcher Lowell Gentry spoke with RFD Today about the importance of farmers testing their water at tile outlets for nitrogen content. more

Illinois River Water Quality Improving

New study has some encouraging findings on Illinois River water quality.  One of the study's coauthors links the reduction in nitrate loads in the river to improvements in corn yields and more efficient fertilizer usage. more

Purdue: New Mobile-Friendly Soil and Water Resource Online

Purdue University has produced an online resource to instruct farmers on cover crop management and phosphorous application.  The site is optimized for mobile-viewing, so farmers can use it in the field with ease.  

FarmWeekNow: Cover Crops Protecting Morgan County Waters

Learn how a Morgan County farmer is using cover crops and BMPs to prevent nutrient and sediment runoff into a local lake. more

Peoria Journal Star: Cover Crop Usage Rising in Illinois

The PJ Star interviewed Pete Fandel, a CBMP cover crop specialist, about the many benefits cover crops have for soil and water health. more

Take the 2016 Cover Crop Survey

The Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) invites you to participate in a nationwide survey of farmers to determine whether or not they implement cover crops.  Results enable organizations like CTIC to gain useful insights into the benefits farmers receive from cover crops, and develop policy initiatives to encourage cover crop usage.

Case Study: BMPs Improve Water Quality

A Notre Dame study has concluded that farmers adopting BMPs have improved the quality of a northern Illinois watershed. more

GROWMARK Launches New Sustainability Initiatives

Agricultural supplier GROWMARK has announced several new programs to promote nutrient management training, improve honey bee health, and recognize crop specialists who engage growers in sustainable best management farming practices.  The programs are part of GROWMARK's system-wide sustainability effort called Endure. more

Upcoming Webinars Rethink Phosphorus Management

Find out about the latest research on phosphorus management practices.  Check out this month's webinars, featuring several subject-matter experts on water quality and nutrient management.  

Killing the Dead Zone

A coalition of Illinois farmers, sewage districts, municipalities, conservationists and regulators have joined forces to check the surge of nutrients flowing down the Mississippi. more

Ag Professional: Cover Crops Are the Right Thing to Do

Cover crops are a pain for retailers. more

Illinois Farmer Today: Farmers, landlords learn to connect

Jaci Davis, a landowner near Paxton, IL, was looking for a farmer that would support her wishes for soil-friendly practices and conservation. She met Will Glazik at a field day near Rantoul and the two started talking about cover crops and soil health. more

New York Times: Cover Crops, a Farming Revolution With Deep Roots in the Past

When Mark Anson came home with his hair on fire after a seminar on the seemingly soporific topic of soil health, his younger brother, Doug, was skeptical. What had Mark lit up was cover crops: fields of noncash crops like hairy vetch and cereal rye that act on soil like a nourishing facial after the harvest. more

Agri-View: Integrating cover crops made easier

While interest among farmers in cover crops is growing by leaps and bounds, enthusiasm may be outstripping the nuts and bolts of picking the right crops for the intended rotation slots. more

Ozarks Sentinel: Follow Your Nose to Healthy Soils

Do you want to know where some of the healthiest soils in Missouri are located? Some rural residents and motorists are learning that all you have to do is follow your nose. more

Farm Week Now: Research shows phosphorus placement cuts losses

University of Illinois research shows placing phosphorous below the surface "significantly" reduces losses of the nutrient - a potential tool for the state Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy. more

Corn + Soybean Digest: Rethink tolerable soil loss on your corn, soybean fields

Erosion may be hurting productivity more than you think.

As weather extremes and sever rainfall events continue, Midwest growers need to pay more attention to water infiltration and retention, advises Andy Lenssen, soybean systems agronomist, Iowa State University. more

Farm Week Now: NREC research testing results on farm fields

Farm fields in Douglas and Piatt counties provide real-world opportunities to assess nutrient management practices in two studies funding by the Illinois Nutrient Research and Education Council (NREC).

Last week, U of I researchers Mark David and Lowell Gentry discussed their on-farm research during a field day.

In Piatt County, David and Gentry monitor field tiles for nitrate losses from a field in a corn-soybean-wheat rotation with red clover cover crop after wheat and bioreactors.  The farmer already installed three bioreactors with cost-share funds from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). and plans to install three more, Davis says. more

Farm Week Now: Conservation farmers give options for cover crop success

Last week, farmer panelists shared their ideas and experiences twice daily in the Conservation Partners tent during the Farm Progress Show, Decatur. Wednesday morning’s quartet included: Elliot Lagacy, farmer and Illinois Department of Agriculture regional conservation representative; Robert “Woody” Woodruff, farmer and Illinois Stewardship Alliance conservation associate; Dave Bishop, organic farmer; and Richard “Dick” Lyons, farmer and Illinois Council on Best Management Practices cover crop specialist. more

Farm Week Now: Ag retailers go below the surface for better nutrient management

A number of exhibitors at the 34th Midwest Ag Industries Exposition (MAGIE) this year featured new or upgraded nutrient application equipment during the show at the McLean County Fairgrounds in Bloomington.

“There’s a lot of emphasis on nutrient management capabilities and servicing the crop throughout the year,” Jean Payne, president of the Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association, told FarmWeek. more

Farm Week Now: Optimizing phosphorous placement raises corn yields

The practice also holds promise as a practical method to reduce phosphorous lost from fields into lakes, rivers and streams.

Tryston Beyrer, Ph.D. research assistant with the University of Illinois crop sciences department, is studying band applications of phosphorous versus broadcast applications. Nearly 100 percent of the time, a band application resulted in a corn growth response, Beyrer reported recently during U of I Agronomy Day.

Beyrer used a large coulter to open a trench and added phosphorous via a dry fertilizer tube. A closing wheel followed behind that and closed the slot. He noted farmers could also use a sidedress bar or strip-tillage bars. more

Farm Week Now: New east-central watershed project focuses on nutrients

During a kickoff for the new Vermilion Headwaters project, farmers and landowners received an overview of the project, which is part of the Mississippi River Basin Initiative (MRBI) and funded through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The project area includes parts of Ford, Iroquois and Livingston counties along with a portion of McLean County near Fairbury.

“This MRBI is voluntary. It will help you (farmers) try different things,” said Eric McTaggert with Livingston County NRCS.

Starting this year, the project offers $300,000 annually in Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) funds for four years -- a total of $1.2 million. more

AgriNews: Soil quality, conservation tied to cover crops

Illinois AgriNews
By Robert Lyons

JACKSONVILLE, Ill. -- The use of cover crops is a key component to the health and conservation of soil, as well as preventing nutrient loss, experts said.

The Illinois Soybean Association hosted a sustainability showcase Aug. 19 in Jacksonville, in which Richard Lyons, cover crop specialist with the Illinois Council on Best Management Practices, and Joel Gruver, assistant professor of soil sciences at Western Illinois University, presented methods and benefits of implementing cover crops into annual field planning.

Gruver and Lyons illustrated how fields that have had winter cover crops grown on them have better yields, retention of nutrients, less compaction and have fewer weeds and pests.

Cover crops also can be a savior during extremely wet years, like the 2015 growing season has been, Gruver said.

"Rainfall events that, historically, were supposed to happen once a decade are happening sometimes twice in a week," Gruver said. "Cover crops will definitely reduce the damaging effects of the high rainfall events."

While the advantages of cover crops are evident, Gruver said it is an agricultural practice that is constantly being monitored and adjusted to provide maximum benefit. Several farmers at the Jacksonville meeting noted they have experienced mixed results in their trials with cover crops.

"You have to figure out, probably, I would say what method works for you but, what combination of methods," Gruver said.

Still, cover crops are not going to have a dramatic impact on soil quality in every field, Gruver said.

He pointed out that Illinois has more than 600 different soil types, several of which often exist in a single field. In addition, there are many factors that affect cover crops' viability, such as location, soil drainage, crop rotation, timing of field work and livestock grazing on the land. Some of the factors can be adjusted, while others cannot, he said.

"If you're doing tillage in the fall, there may be no opportunity to do cover crops. So we have to adjust some of the things we traditionally thought we needed that are incompatible, or less compatible with cover crops," Gruver said.


Tilling was a topic that was emphasized throughout the presentations. Gruver and Lyons stressed that reduced tilling is a major component of good land management. In addition to making soil hospitable for cover crops, no-till farming can help reduce nutrient loss.

Nitrogen and phosphorus escaping from soil is not just a problem for farmers. The essential elements are finding their way into the Mississippi River and, ultimately, the Gulf of Mexico, which has environmental groups such as the Sierra Club concerned.

Lyons said studies have shown Illinois is responsible for the largest percentage of nitrates (16 percent) and phosphorus (13 percent) in the gulf's hypoxic zone.

The hypoxic zone, or dead zone, covers thousands of square miles in the northern gulf, along the coasts of Texas and Louisiana, and prevents adequate oxygen supplies for native aquatic plant and animal life to survive.

Lyons said change has to occur in Illinois and, if farmers are not proactive enough at forming solutions to nutrient loss, it could be forced through government regulation and oversight.

"You have to make a commitment," he said. "You, as the individual, have to decide 'What am I going to do on my farm to make a difference?'"

Areas where there are rolling hills, such as the Kaskaskia River Watershed, tend to contribute higher levels of phosphorus as a result of erosion from surface runoff and frequent tilling.

"You can almost pattern, based on topography, what's going to happen," Lyons said.

A Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy has been developed through the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. In addition to the runoff from farm fields, the NLRS also recognizes wastewater treatment plants and runoff from city streets as contributors to the hypoxic zone.

A goal of 45 percent reduction has been set for Illinois over the next decade. Cover crops, Lyons said, are an integral part of farmers' role in meeting that goal.

"By using cover crops, that sustainable part of your farm, in which you have now green on the farm or something growing on the farm … for nine to nine and a half months, you can reduce nitrates by 20 percent," Lyons said, noting saturated buffers can reduce nitrate loss by more than another 8 percent.

Cover crops, based on data presented by Lyons, reduce phosphorus loss by nearly 13 percent, but when combined with a buffer zone can reduce the loss by more than 25 percent.

Buffer zones and cover crops are two changes that will take farmers most of the way to meeting the goals set for 2025 by the NLRS, Lyons said.

"This might be intimidating," he said. "But, you will do it because you want to, because you don't want to be regulated. And voluntarily, you're going to make that decision."

Gruver recommends those who have already began implementing cover crops and other conservation techniques to start encouraging fellow farmers in their respective areas to follow he suit. He suggests incremental changes to get producers acclimated to the idea of change.

For information on programs and assistance for establishing cover crops and other conservation practices, visit the local U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency.

Robert Lyons can be reached at 618-535-1573 or Follow him on Twitter at: @AgNews_Lyons.

NPR: Here's how to end Iowa's great nitrate fight

Three weeks ago, Sara Carlson was driving to her job in Ames, Iowa, when she turned on the radio and heard me talking about nitrates in Iowa's water.

"And I was like, 'I really hope he nails this,' " she says.

This topic is Carlson's specialty. She works with a group called Practical Farmers of Iowa. These farmers are devoted to farming in ways that protect the environment. more

New York Times: Farmers put down plow for more productive soil

FORT WORTH — Gabe Brown is in such demand as a speaker that for every invitation he accepts, he turns down 10 more. At conferences, like the one held here at a Best Western hotel recently, people line up to seek his advice.

“The greatest roadblock to solving a problem is the human mind,” he tells audiences.

Mr. Brown, a balding North Dakota farmer who favors baseball caps and red-striped polo shirts, is not talking about disruptive technology start-ups, political causes, or the latest self-help fad.

He is talking about farming, specifically soil-conservation farming, a movement that promotes leaving fields untilled, “green manures” and other soil-enhancing methods with an almost evangelistic fervor. more 


Quad Cities Online: Farmers Protect Earth Every Day, Not Just on Earth Day

As America celebrated Earth Day on April 22, this annual observance received little formal attention on Illinois farms. That’s because farmers protect the Earth every day through wise conservation practices. Illinois farmers take good care of the land to grow crops and support livestock farms. Otherwise, we couldn’t feed our own families, let alone produce food for the many consumers here and globally who depend on us. more

Farm Week Now: Illinois Cover Crop Interest Mimics Nationwide Trend

Cover crops continue gaining ground on Illinois farms. That fits a nationwide trend of increased average cover crop acres, based on farmer responses to a recently released survey. more

Decatur Herald-Review: Runoff Issue's Impact to Be Far Reaching

Federal district and appellate courts have now upheld the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency to set limits on the amount of nutrients leaving farm fields and entering the Chesapeake Bay watershed, a move that the EPA says could take 600,000 acres of farmland out of production. more

Agri-News: Farmers Proactive in Cutting Nitrate Losses

The Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy will be finalized this summer, but farmers already have got a jump on it with changes in their fertilizer management efforts. more

Illinois Farmer Today: Central Illinois Farmer Shares His Cover Crop Strategies with Fellow Farmers at Roadshow Event

Central Illinois farmer Jon Odell planted cereal rye in all his fields for the 2014-15 season.

Not everyone with Shelby County’s rich black soils is interested in looking at cover crops, he says.

“I’ve had decent luck, but some people haven’t,” he says. more

Rockford Register Star: Farmers Protect Environment for Future Generations

As a local farmer, Mr. Sweeny missed the mark with his most recent column. Nitrogen fertilizer costs a lot of money, so why would I want to lose it into a stream? more

Farm Week Now: Farmers Need to Consider Nutrient Needs, Responsibility

Applying nitrogen in the spring and the fall ensures the crop will find nutrients, offers timing flexibility and uses best management practices, according to a member of the Illinois Farm Bureau Conservation and Natural Resources Strength with Advisory Team (SWAT). more

Des Moines Register: Whole Story: Farmers See Progress on Water Quality

The March 13 Register editorial, "Not enough was done to avoid water lawsuit," was right to point out the disappointment and missed opportunity, but the disappointment lies with the "hair-trigger" litigious approach by Des Moines Water Works. It's also disappointing that the Register missed an opportunity to report the progress that has been made, even in the DMWW's own watershed. more

Illinois State University: Brehm to Assist in Study on Perceptions of Water Quality

Professor of Sociology Joan Brehm is helping to conduct an assessment of water use and perceptions about water quality in the Lake Bloomington and Lake Evergreen watersheds. more

State Journal-Register: Four State Study Tests Nitrate Reduction Technology

Approximately 265 square miles drain into the Lake Springfield watershed from an area covering portions of three counties.
Researchers are tracking technology at two test sites in Auburn intended to keep the nitrate byproducts from 300 farms within the watershed out of streams, rivers and ultimately the lake. The sites -- known as "saturated buffer zones" -- are among 15 in Illinois, Iowa, Indiana and Minnesota in a larger study on reducing nitrates that threaten water quality and aquatic life. more

Des Moines Register: In the Cross Hairs: Iowa Farmers Frustrated by Water Lawsuit

With decades of conservation farming under his belt, Dwight Dial has a hard time understanding why Des Moines Water Works is so intent on suing three northwest Iowa counties for contributing to high nitrates in the Raccoon River, a source of drinking water for roughly 500,000 residents in central Iowa. more