URBANA, Ill. — University of Illinois Extension staff joined directors of the Illinois Department of Agriculture and Illinois EPA for the release of the state’s Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy Biennial Report Aug. 29.
The Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy is one of many state strategies developed and implemented over the 31-state Mississippi River basin that are intended to improve water quality.
University scientists calculated the implementation targets needed to achieve the strategy's nutrient loss reduction targets, and found the first evidence of improvement: a 10 percent reduction in average annual nitrogen load between 2011 and 2015. Although this decline took place before the strategy went into effect, this reduction is encouraging.
“I was part of the team that did the original science assessment four years ago, and it is great to see some of these practices being implemented around the state,” said Director of Extension George Czapar.
Gregory McIsaac, an emeritus professor whose research team discovered the decline in nitrogen loss, said, “Nitrate loss appears to have declined since about 2000 due to higher corn yields with little increase in fertilizer input. Phosphorus losses have increased.”
Because of outreach by various agriculture groups, a 2016 survey showed 70 percent of Illinois farmers were aware of best management practices to reduce nutrient loss. These include a move toward split spring and fall nitrogen applications and an increased number of acres dedicated to conservation practices such as a use of cover crops.
“In releasing this report at the Farm Progress Show, we are introducing these successes to farmers who may be somewhat apprehensive about trying new management practices,” said Warren Goetsch, IDOA deputy director. “Increasing the exposure of our message will keep this effort in front of producers so we can continue to make progress in the years to come.”