Anticipation and excitement are developing across Illinois as spring planting approaches.  Along with those seasonal expectations, we need a conscientious examination of our land and water stewardship responsibilities.  Illinois’ natural resources have treated farmers well.  It’s time that we do a better job of improving and preserving those resources.

Several Illinois soybean farmers just returned from a water quality fact-finding visit to the Delmarva Peninsula.  Our question: Is the present situation regarding nutrient management there to become the future here?  We hope not.  But only the determined engagement of all Illinois producers will avert the DelMarVa solution from coming here.

On every farm we visited, it was the same sight and the same story—large three-ring binders of nutrient management plans covering every activity on every field.  These plans were written by paid consultants or the local Soil & Water Conservation District.

Many farmers had paid many thousands of dollars to have the plans written and constantly updated.  Most were subject to periodic audit by the state.  The same farmers engaged in constant talk of nitrogen and phosphorus management techniques.  Cover crops were everywhere you looked—very little fall tillage—farming for the regulators has arrived there!

Illinois farmers: the time to act is NOW!

This spring is not too late to try some improved phosphorus or nitrogen conservation techniques.  Split shot applications, tissue testing, adjustable rate injection, starter fertilizer or the old tried-and-true no-till on those erosion-prone soils are just a few examples of simple steps you can take that may make a huge difference in how we farm in the future.

The solution to these water quality issues can be found.  First, sound science, not political science.  Legitimate, reputable science-based research.  With four Ag colleges, C-BMP, NREC,

N-Watch and a large group of professional CCAs, Illinois is well-positioned for this part of the solution

Second, each field in each watershed on each soil type needs to be managed accordingly.  Keep the NPK in the root zone and available to the crop.  When the crop is not growing, keep those elements tied up and immobilized and the soil in place.

While scare tactics often fail to encourage farmer improvement, we do not want to wait for legislative or regulatory action.  We CAN manage this in a voluntary manner.

Chesapeake Bay, Lake Erie algae bloom, Des Moines waterworks, hypoxia in the Gulf—these situations should serve as a warning to us.

We in Illinois agriculture have the ability to manage this situation if we all work TOGETHER and all start NOW!

Do your part.

Produce results.

Don Guinnip

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About the Author: Don Guinnip