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Nutrient loss reduction efforts continue

IFCA's Jean Payne, right, visits with Dr. Greg McIsaac at a 4R Field Day this month in Bloomington / CIFN photo.

BLOOMINGTON – Nutrient loss reduction efforts continue here in Illinois.

The Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association hosted the third annual Illinois 4R Indoor Field Day this month at the Asmark Agricenter in Bloomington.

“It allows for really good presentations and going over some of the research data,” explained Jean Payne, IFCA president.

The day was sponsored by the Fertilizer Institute, Environmental Tillage Systems and the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Council. Payne appreciates the 4R collaborative effort which continues to help fund programs in Illinois to get the information out to everyone.

When the 4R program first started, the common belief was that water quality issues were mainly due to using too much fertilizer, but things have changed.

“We’ve shown over the last 10 years with the research that it is much more complicated than that,” said Payne.

Payne admits the 4R’s have done a great job keeping farmers from overusing fertilizer and contributing to water quality problems, but it’s really about what happens with the amount of rainfall and the mineralization of soil organic matter.

“I think it’s going to set the stage for the next decade which is really going to be looking at our whole crop production system as a whole – looking at when are we planting, what are we planting, can we integrate a cover crop, can we look at the management of water on farms to reduce nutrient losses.”

Payne considers collaboration with environmental groups “phenomenal” and no one has accused anyone else of not trying hard to fix the problems, although a nutrient loss reduction goal still needs to be reached by 2025.

“I think in the next five years, the adoption of more cover crops in Illinois will certainly help but we still want to make sure our farmers are profitable and that’s the goal of this research,” Payne said.

Chicago is a main contributor of phosphorus to the Illinois River along with a large portion of the nitrates too, but ag officials have been collaborating with Chicago on nutrient loss reduction efforts – something Payne considers very positive.

“Because they are there, they do have a big burden and they’ve spent millions and millions of dollars in the City of Chicago to reduce their wastewater issues. So that just kind of holds our feet to the fire too,” added Payne.

For more information, look for the section of the IFCA website called, “Keep it 4R Crop” or type “Illinois Nutrient Strategy” in your browser and read the executive summary of the recently-released report to get a snapshot of all the efforts underway to reduce nutrient losses here in Illinois.

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