Please join us for Water Quality Wednesdays in August as we celebrate Water Quality month!  Illinois corn farmers are committed to minimizing agriculture’s effect on water quality and this month, we’ll tell you how!

Illinois agriculture has been very involved in working to improve water quality.  In fact it has become a priority to change management, develop best management practices, and improve nutrient use efficiency.

In looking at the facts, agriculture has been very efficient in producing corn with less fertilizer use.  When looking at the amount of potassium applied per bushel, the farmers have reduced the amount by 56%.   Phosphorus has been considered a contributor to water quality problems by promoting algae growth and farmers have reduced the amount of phosphorus applied per bushel of corn raised by 55% in the last 30 years.

Nitrogen use is often mentioned as causing a problem with water quality in the Gulf of Mexico.  Farmers have also decreased their use of nitrogen per bushel of corn produced by 33% since the 1970’s.   Most of that reduction has been done in the last 15 years.   Better management of application with precision equipment and placement, precision guidance and better management practices all contribute to reducing nitrogen losses and improving the crop efficiency.

Fall applied nitrogen is now done with nitrogen inhibitors, and applied when soil temperatures are cool (50 degrees) so it remains stable in the soil until spring.   Many farmers are increasing their spring applied nitrogen acres and also starting to do nitrogen application after the crop emerges.  This also increases the nitrogen use efficiency in corn production, resulting in lower nitrogen application rates and lower costs of production.

Illinois farmers are continually working to develop new methods and best management practices by supporting demonstration trials and research across the state.   This commitment assures that nutrients will be used efficiently, the environment is protected and farmers can produce the most cost efficient crop for food and fuel.

Mike Plumer
Former U of I Extension Specialist and
Conservation Enthusiast

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