Farmers throughout Illinois are implementing conservation practices to keep nutrients on their fields and out of waterways. Just in time for Earth Day, an interactive map is helping those farmers tell their stories and encouraging other famers to adopt similar practices.
Several agriculture and conservation groups have launched the conservation story map which highlights farmers who are implementing best management practices (BMPs) as well as local and regional programs that support their efforts. Examples of BMPs include cover crops, reduced tillage, bioreactors and other sustainable farming and conservation practices.
“Farmers in Illinois are working hard to implement practices to improve soil health and water quality,” says Jennifer Filipiak, associate Midwest director, American Farmland Trust. “Reducing nutrient loss and improving our watersheds are vital to the sustainability of Illinois agriculture.”
Keeping excess nutrients out of waterways has taken on added urgency with the release last year of the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy (NLRS). The strategy uses science, technology and industry experience to assess and reduce nutrient losses to Illinois waters and, ultimately, the Gulf of Mexico. Excess nutrients in the Gulf have created a ‘dead zone’ that impacts aquatic plants and animals. The goal of NLRS is to reduce by 45 percent the phosphorous and nitrate loads in Illinois waters from wastewater treatment plants and from urban and agricultural runoff.
“Creating this map is an important step in helping farmers voluntarily adopt BMPs to improve both water quality and soil health,” says Caroline Wade, nutrient watershed manager, Illinois Corn Growers Association. “We need farmers to implement conservation practices on every acre in Illinois, and this tool will help farmers learn more about programs and practices to support them in that effort.”
In addition to highlighting farming best management practices (BMPs), the conservation story map also lets farmers know about local and regional funding programs and about agriculture groups, conservation groups and government agencies that support their sustainability efforts within their specific watershed. “The conservation story map is a significant addition to the Illinois CBMP website,” says David Droste, a farmer near Nashville, Ill., and president of the Illinois Council on Best Management Practices (CBMP). “It’s also an excellent example of how agricultural and conservation organizations are partnering on projects to promote the adoption of conservation practices on Illinois farms.”
The conservation story map is funded by the Illinois Corn Growers Association, the Illinois Soybean Association checkoff program, the Illinois Farm Bureau, American Farmland Trust, the Soil Health Partnership, the Zea Mays Foundation and the Illinois Council on Best Management Practices. The project launched with more than 50 stories and is hosted on CBMP’s website at http://www.illinoiscbmp.org/What-Illinois-Farmers-Are-Doing/
Illinois Corn Growers Association
Director of Communications
Illinois Soybean Association
Media Relations Manager
Illinois Farm Bureau
Associate Midwest Director
American Farmland Trust
Jenna Higgins Rose
Soil Health Partnership