Farmers, researchers, collaborate on water, soil health solutions

By Richard Guebert Jr. Illinois Farm Bureau President

Andrew Margenot, assistant professor for the Crop Sciences Department at the University of Illinois, shares nutrient stewardship research with attendees at the Fulton County field day earlier this year. The event was hosted by Fulton County Farm Bureau, Illinois Farm Bureau, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, U of I and the Illinois Nutrient Research and Education Council. (Illinois Farm Bureau file photo)

The heat and humidity may be cranked up during the summer, but Illinois farmers are still hard at work making management decisions on their farms.

With corn and soybeans planted across the state each spring, many farmers take time in the hotter months of the year to learn about new, innovative ways they can maximize crop yields while protecting the environment. Illinois Farm Bureau (IFB) supports these efforts through a series of Nutrient Stewardship Field Days each year.

Farmers care about conserving our natural resources. Preserving the soil and water quality on Illinois farms minimizes costly inputs and maximizes crop yields. Balancing production costs allows us to grow the food American families rely on, while also creating opportunities for future generations to return to the family farm.

IFB’s 2022 Nutrient Stewardship Field Days are funded through the organization’s Nutrient Stewardship Grant Program. The program, now in its seventh year, committed more than $150,000 to 2022 projects and is working with 25 counties on 21 projects, including field days, throughout the state. To date, IFB has partnered with County Farm Bureaus and others on more than 100 projects across 70 Illinois counties.

So, what happens during these field days?

Field day events offer farmers the chance to share environmentally friendly tools that work well on their farms. Through research shared with their peers, researchers, universities, ag retailers and industry professionals, different types of on-farm projects can be developed to test the use of cover crops, livestock manure management, woodchip bioreactors and other technologies that improve the land. These efforts benefit surrounding communities and ultimately support our state’s Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy (NLRS).

Farmers learn about a variety of cover crops and their benefits, including those best suited for mitigating soil and nutrient loss and those that produce higher quality forage for livestock, during Illinois Farm Bureau’s 2022 Nutrient Stewardship Field Day in Clinton County. (Illinois Farm Bureau file photo)

The Illinois NLRS, which was released by the Illinois Department of Agriculture and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency in July 2015, calls for wastewater treatment plants, urban areas and agricultural areas to reduce the state’s phosphorous load by 25 percent and its nitrate-nitrogen load by 15 percent by 2025. The eventual target is a 45 percent reduction in the loss of these nutrients to the Mississippi River.

Field days, on-farm research and collaborative projects are all integral parts of Illinois agriculture’s role in working toward the state’s NLRS. IFB supports these voluntary farmer efforts by focusing on education and outreach, supporting research and implementation of best management practices, and reporting progress as it’s made.

I am proud of our farmers’ efforts to minimize environmental impacts in Illinois. You can learn more about the progress Illinois farmers continue to make toward NLRS goals and see a full list of 2022 Nutrient Stewardship Field Days at

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