The Illinois Nutrient Research and Education Council recently marked its fifth year of cooperative existence with a celebration of the legislation that created it. How well has it performed in reducing toxic field runoff into water sources? We have some numbers. Also this week: Illinois dicamba training classes are in full swing, with opportunities coming to the farm field near you. For these and more top farm and rural news headlines, please read on…
NREC marks five years, touts clean water investments
PEORIA – Farmers and environmentalists extended a rare olive branch to one another during the recent Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association’s (IFCA) annual convention and trade show, held in Peoria January 18-19. That is where leaders from both groups came together to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the creation of the Illinois Nutrient Research and Education Council (NREC), a unique partnership aimed at supporting research and farmer education on fertilizer practices that improve water quality and economics.
The event, held at the Peoria Civic Center, was attended by Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs, who sponsored the original NREC legislation in 2012. Frerichs noted that through a $1 per ton fee placed on agricultural fertilizer sales in order to fund NREC goals and projects, nearly $9.8 million has been poured into nutrient-related research efforts. “Clean water is essential for our health and our environment, and agriculture is Illinois’ number one industry. I applaud the collaboration between environmental and agricultural interests to create NREC and build consensus on strategies that protect our water supply and work for farmers,” Frerichs said.
“The partnership with farmers is critical in implementing the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy and to clean up nutrient pollution in our lakes, streams and rivers,” added Dr. Cynthia Skudrud, clean water program director for the Sierra Club, Illinois chapter. “NREC’s research identifies science-based strategies that will protect our water supply and work on the farm.”
The previously unheard-of collaboration resulted from a combination of limited state resources to address farm nutrient field runoff and “serious” water quality challenges, according to Jean Payne, IFCA executive director. For more info on NREC, visit www.illinoisnrec.org/. (NREC news release)
Dicamba training classes up and running
BLOOMINGTON – Also under the purview of the Illinois Chemical and Fertilizer Association (IFCA) and other Illinois agriculture groups is newly-required training for field applicators wishing to apply the controversial in-season herbicide dicamba to soybean fields in Illinois. Training classes, which began in the fall, will continue at locations across the state through March 2018, with a special training website established at www.ifca.com/illinoisdicambatraining.
“Although applicators are required to have training, we encourage everyone who plants dicamba tolerant soybeans to attend a class and understand the careful approach that must be taken to successfully steward this technology,” said Jean Payne, IFCA executive director.
The website provides dates and locations for upcoming classes, including February training sessions scheduled for towns including Pinckneyville, Altamont, Effingham, Malta, Fairfield, Freeport and many others. The free-of-charge classes, which require advance registration through the website, will cover significant label and compliance changes for the product that must be followed to apply the herbicide properly in 2018.
Under the label changes, only certified commercial applicators and operators can purchase dicamba products, and detailed records of sales must be kept by herbicide retailers.
New technology to single-spray weeds under study
MOLINE – When John Deere and Company purchased Silicon Valley-based Blue River Technology, which designed a sprayer utilizing integrated computer vision and machine learning technology to enable grower to reduce the use of herbicides by spraying only where weeds are present, the Moline-based company did so with the idea that machine learning technologies could be applied to a range of Deere products. “Blue River Technology is a pioneer in applying machine learning to help farmers optimize every plant in their fields. By providing equipment that can see and manage each plant, Blue River helps farmers reduce inputs, increase profitability and care for the land,” stated Deere and Company director of global relations Ken Golden, in a news release last fall announcing the purchase.
But it looks as if BRT’s single-spray technology will be under study for at least another year. According to AgFax Weed Solutions, Deere will continue to test the smart sprayer in U.S. cotton and soybean fields in 2018. After this summer’s evaluations, the company expects to have a better idea of when the technology might be available to farmers, reported AgFax contributing editor Elton Robinson.
The product, known as BRT’s See and Spray unit, mounts on a pull-behind toolbar that applies herbicide only to weeds it detects, leaving the crop and bare ground unsprayed.
Illinois Farm Fact:
30 percent of the over 80 million tons of freight carried annually by barge in Illinois is grain, and 17 percent are chemicals such as fertilizers. (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)
ISA soybean workshops in full swing
BLOOMINGTON – The Illinois Soybean Association’s (ISA) Better Beans Series continues this week with dates in Jacksonville (February 1), Altamont (Feb. 6) and Fairview Heights (Febraury 22). The half-day events feature local Certified Crop Advisors (CCAs), ISA Soy Envoys, agronomists, industry representatives and farmers discussing weed management, best management practices, fertility, tissue testing and seed variety and treatment selection.
In addition, ISA and the Illinois Wheat Association will offer their second annual double-crop workshop on February 6 in Mt. Vernon. This program will focus on production and profitability for farmers planting soybeans after wheat.
Another ISA workshop series, the Resilient Farmer Roadshow, will come to Dekalb on Feb. 13, Galesburg Feb. 14, Bloomington Feb. 15, Altamont Feb. 20, and Mt. Vernon Feb. 21. This series examines the proven habits of farm operators who have managed to turn profit in the post-ethanol boom era for crop prices.
Those interested in attending one or more of these learning opportunities should contact the ISA office or visit www.ilsoy.org.
–R.F.D. NEWS & VIEWS: Dicamba training and more–