WATER QUALITY WEDNESDAY: INDIAN CREEK WATERSHED PROJECT

CTIC founded the Indian Creek Watershed Project to increase adoption of conservation agricultural systems and measure effectiveness of different nutrient management practices.

Over 120 farmers, agribusiness, government and non-profit organization representatives attended last month’s Indian Creek Watershed Project field tour in Livingston County, Ill., hosted by CTIC and our public and private partners.   These include Livingston County Soil and Water Conservation District, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (with funds from Section 319 of the Clean Water Act), Agrium Advanced Technologies, AGROTAIN International, The Fertilizer Institute, Monsanto, Mosaic, Illinois Corn Marketing Board, Agri Drain Corporation, Case IH, John Deere, ADM and International Plant Nutrition Institute.  Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association and Illinois Soybean Association contributed funds to defray costs of the tour.

Each field tour stop represented conservation agricultural systems focused on efficient nutrient management and products, practices and technology that can boost profitable farming and improve water quality.

The slow release fertilizer demonstration at Herb Steffen’s farm featured a controlled-release nitrogen (N) source ( Agrotain’s SuperU) to boost N use efficiency.  Nitrogen loss starts the moment the farmer applies fertilizer and can add up over time. SuperU blocks the enzyme urease to prevent N loss into the air.  This technology allows the crop to access N immediately, but controls losses in critical weeks after application.

The Steffen site also demonstrated SuperU with a small-plot N use efficiency rate demonstration, which will help determine the most efficient rate for the location and season.

 A soil test at the Steffen site showed a relatively low phosphorus (P) level, so we developed a demonstration of Mosaic’s Micro-Essentials (MESZ) applied as a side-dress (plant nutrients placed on or in the soil near the roots of a growing crop) to provide an additional boost in available P.

MESZ allows uniform nutrient distribution and provides essential nutrients in one granule. Two forms of sulfur provide season-long nutrition. We side-dressed MESZ at two rates and established a control plot where it was not applied.

At the Norman Harms farm we featured the benefits of N fertilizer split application. Farmers applying N close to the time it will be used by the crop avoid costly waste.

This demonstration compares 3 application times:  fall, spring, and split application (½ applied in fall and ½ applied in spring).

A second demonstration at Harms’ compares the full recommended N rate with a reduced rate (85% of recommended rate) using a controlled-release source, ESN®.

ESN® technology delivers N all season, allowing the crop to reach full genetic potential. The polymer coating helps prevent against N loss to surface water, subsurface drainage and groundwater, benefitting water quality.

Crop Production Services provided a John Deere 2510H nutrient applicator to apply fertilizer for this demonstration.

We stopped at John Traub’s farm to learn about strip-till N application.

In this system, the farmer uses real-time kinematic (RTK) precision guidance to apply N fertilizer in fall or early spring in a closely-controlled location where the seed will be sown.

Strip-till systems combine soil drying and warming benefits of conventional tillage and soil-protecting advantages of no-till by disturbing only the portion of soil that will contain the seed row.

At Traub’s we used fall-applied N with an RTK strip-till system and will compare it to a conventional chisel plow system. 

We also compared N use efficiency (NUE) rates with field-scale equipment, so the farmer can apply the rate treatments and harvest the plots without interrupting his normal production routine.  Every farmer can adopt this simple practice.

Find out more about this project at www.ctic.org/indiancreek/.  CTIC seeks additional project sponsors.  For more information contact me at 317-508-2450 or jones@ctic.org.

Christa Jones
CTIC Project Director

CORNBELTERS SEASON ISN’T OVER YET!

With only nine home games remaining in the CornBelters regular season, fans may already be switching into football mode. However, I can assure each and every one of you that the promotions are far from over! From an entertainment stand point, the best may be yet to come! I’ll highlight just a few of the upcoming promotions, but be sure to check out www.normalbaseball.com, www.facebook.com/CornBelters, or www.twitter.com/Normal_Baseball for complete promotion details!

Tuesday, August 23 is the final CornBelters/Rosati’s of Normal Reading Program Night. It will be the last chance for reading program participants to redeem their vouchers for one (1) free game ticket and one (1) free slice of pizza from Rosati’s of Normal at the game. Corny will lead the kids in a pre-game parade around the field to recognize their accomplishments!

Thursday, August 25 is our final “Thirsty Thursday” of the season! It’s the last chance for $1 beers and a bags tournament!

Friday, August 26 is the perfect locals’ event because it’s “ISU / IWU Night” and there will be post-game fireworks presented by CEFCU!

On Saturday, August 27, State Farm Starstruck Saturday presents MLB Hall of Fame pitcher Fergie Jenkins! The three-time MLB All-Star and 1971 Cy Young Award winner amassed 284 wins and 3,192 strikeouts over his prolific career. He had two stints with the Chicago Cubs and also pitched for the Phillies, Rangers and Red Sox. Jenkins will be on hand to throw out the first pitch and sign autographs! This game date will also be the CornBelters first ever “Taste of Central Illinois” here at the Corn Crib starting at 4:00pm! Local restaurants and bakeries will be showcasing delicious eats and tasty treats for you to enjoy before the game. Eric Shangraw, host of “You Gotta Eat,” will also be on hand for a meet and greet!

Friday, September 2, Larry Gatlin will do a pre-game concert beginning at 6:00pm followed by the CornBelters game. It’s also “Cram the Crib” so we’re expecting a HUGE crowd and hoping to break our attendance record of 6,679! There will also be post-game fireworks presented by CEFCU!

On Saturday, September 3, State Farm Starstruck Saturday presents the St. Louis Rams Cheerleaders! They will throw a first pitch and sign autographs!

Sunday, September 4, the CornBelters last game of the season, is very appropriately “Fan Appreciation Night!” There will be great giveaways each half inning of the game! You can also enter to win amazing prizes like a free vacation, a flat screen TV, CornBelters Full Season Tickets and much more!

If you haven’t been to a CornBelters game before, I strongly encourage you to do so! Here is a little feedback we have received throughout the season (via our social media sites):

    • “At the Corn Crib for the first time and lovin it! Go Corn!”
    • “Just got back from my 1st @Normal_Baseball game. Was awesome!”
    • “I plan to rock my #cornbelters cap at Fenway.  Gotta represent @Normal_Baseball !”
    • “Can’t wait til the All-Star Game comes to the Corn Crib next year. We came from Michigan on our new annual trip to the Corn Crib. The Belters didn’t win Friday or Saturday but that’s ok. The experience was priceless and the Belters have better days 2 come!”

        Ashlynne Solvie

Public/Media Relations Manager for Normal CornBelters

FRIDAY FARM PHOTO: AGRICULTURE

If you haven’t been following along this summer for our ongoing photo contest on the IL Corn Facebook page, you have been missing out on some great agricultural pictures! This week’s theme was “Agriculture” and Mary Margret Ginter walked away with the most votes for her harvest photo.  Congratulations Mary Margret!

Stay tuned all summer long for more contests and great pictures!

BACK TO SCHOOL

Back to School will mean 584 teachers will be looking at things a little differently this year!  Where as they’ll still think of class lists, school supplies and probably the temperatures outside, these teachers will also consider the Ethanol in the tanks of the parent pick up line cars, the Soy Bio-Diesel in the school busses, and even the variety of agricultural products used to field a baseball game!

This summer 584 teachers from across the state participated in 29 Summer Agricultural Institutes sponsored by the Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom program with the support of the various commodity groups across the state.  Since 1991 over 8,000 teachers have participated in these week long, intensive training sessions for professional development or college credit.   

With the support of Illinois Corn Growers, Illinois Soybean Association, Illinois Beef Association, Illinois Pork Producers, and the Midwest Dairy Association, (among others!) the teachers had an experience that they won’t soon forget.   Each Summer Ag Institute included visits from various commodity organizations with presentations about how commodities can be incorporated into traditional classroom education.  The Illinois AITC program presented sample lessons and materials showcasing the ease in which agriculture can assist students in meeting Illinois Learning Standards.  But most importantly, the teachers got to go and examine agriculture in ways they’ve never experienced—in the field. 

Kathy, a Kindergarten teacher from East-Central Illinois said “I was amazed at the technical side of farming’, Lindsay from North-Central Illinois added, “I visited places in my own county that I didn’t know existed, and I’ve lived here my whole life!”  Sheryl from Southern Illinois added, “Agriculture is much broader and more complicated than the stereotypical idea of farming.  The Summer Ag Institute really opened my eyes as an educator, student and an on-going learner.’ Colleen from North-Eastern Illinois summed up her experience saying “I didn’t know what to expect from this class.  I did not realize how integral of a role agriculture plays in all of our lives. I definitely was not expecting to gain as much knowledge as I did or take away so many great ideas to use in my classroom. I plan to teach an agriculture based lesson once a week in my class.”

Year after year, teachers who have taken our Summer Ag Institutes have become ‘cheerleaders’ for agriculture in general.  It couldn’t come at a more critical time, as all of agriculture continues to face the challenges of fewer and fewer people understanding what is going on in barns, fields and combines across the state. 

AITC is grateful to the commodity groups and individuals who support our effort to help teachers understand how Illinois agriculture plays a role in the world’s food, fiber and fuel system.

Looking for a way to help? Consider adopting a classroom of Chicago area students and becoming a ‘pen pal’ on a monthly basis with a class—explain your farm operation and eyes will indeed be opened–yours and theirs!  For more information about our Adopt A Classroom Program contact me at kdaugherty@ilfb.org.

Kevin Daugherty
Education Director
Illinois Ag in the Classroom

STUDY FINDS BEEF, DAIRY FARM PROFITS ROSE SINCE RFS EXPANSION

An interesting study conducted by Texas A&M University and Doane Advisory Services has found that net incomes of beef and dairy farmers have increased since 2007 when the Renewable Fuels Standard 2 (RFS2) was implemented. 

This is interesting because large meat processors and livestock associations in Washington, DC have long criticized the RFS 2 as a policy that makes them an unfair competitor for corn, dramatically affecting their bottom line.  Prior to the corn-based ethanol boom, livestock farmers were only competing with export markets for the feedstuff with tons of corn left over.  Because of the excess corn and federal supports, the price of corn remained artificially low for a long time.  With ethanol as a new, growing competitor in the marketplace, the price of corn has increased and livestock farmers were, at times, unprepared for the new competition.

However, the process of ethanol production creates a high quality livestock feed as a byproduct which has dramatically changed feed profiles and enabled livestock farmers a different option.

Overall, the study finds that although livestock farmers must deal with higher input costs as a result of a changing corn market, higher outputs more than make up for the difference, leaving livestock farmers better off in all cases examined.  Read more about this study here, and enjoy the National Corn Growers Association’s press release below.

Aug 5: Economic conditions have improved for beef and dairy farmers since the implementation of the expanded Renewable Fuel Standard in 2007, according to a new study by Texas A&M University and Doane Advisory Services.

“For years, corn farmers have understood that we have the ability to supply both growing ethanol and livestock producers simultaneously without negatively impacting these valued customers,” said NCGA President Bart Schott. “With advances in both seed and farming technology, we have increased our average yield substantially in the past few decades. This abundance allows us to meet increased demand, providing both feed and fuel that benefit our nation’s economic security.”

The study, which utilized Texas A&M University’s Agricultural & Food Policy Center’s premier farm-level modeling system and data from the University of Missouri’s Food & Agricultural Policy Research Institute, determined that net cash farm incomes for representative beef-cow and dairy operations had increased since provisions of the biofuels mandate went into effect. This conclusion verifies NCGA’s position that increased ethanol production has not negatively impacted the profitability of key livestock markets.

The study was prepared in response to ongoing allegations that increased ethanol production resulting from the expanded RFS had caused financial insecurity in livestock and dairy operations by spurring an increase in feed prices. Researchers looked at changes in input and output prices in January 2007 and January 2011 for beef-cow and dairy operations in 12 states, with consideration given to overall market changes. The final analysis concluded that while higher feed costs do exist, the profitability of all operations examined had increased over the four-year period as a result of increased output prices.

RESEARCHERS INVITED TO SEE HOW IL CORN FARMERS ARE PRODUCING MORE WITH LESS

The Illinois Corn Growers Association and Illinois Corn Marketing Board are interested in reaching out to the scientific community and providing opportunities for continued education about agricultural technology and production advances.  To this end, Illinois Corn is sponsoring a Corn Technology Tour on August 29 and 30 in Champaign and Decatur, IL.

Participants in the tour will learn how Illinois corn farmers are producing more with less.  They will discuss higher productivity of corn farmers with University of Illinois researchers, and will see first hand the latest technology in feed, equipment and management. 

The tour will end with a visit to the Farm Progress Show in Decatur, IL with scheduled stops at the tents of John Deere, Monsanto, Pioneer , Syngenta, Illinois Corn.

To view the agenda for the tour, click here.

LOOKING FOR A “VIRTUAL COFFEESHOP? LOOK NO FURTHER.

Thanks to GROWMARK for sharing this helpful information! 

NEW WEBSITE CONNECTS FARMERS AND RANCHERS TO GROWING WORLD, EACH OTHER

Today’s farmers and ranchers are so busy increasing their productivity to meet the needs of a growing world that they don’t have time to sit and visit with their neighbors like they used to. However, there is still great value in building relationships, sharing information, and asking for advice.

A new website and mobile application, cropNAtion, will allow farmers and ranchers to connect with each other whether they are across the country or across the section.

The site, www.cropnation.com, is designed to serve as a one-stop resource for on the go information. After creating a profile, users can share information about their operations, ask and answer questions, upload photos and videos, and access the latest markets and weather conditions.

“We saw a need for farmers and ranchers to have a ‘virtual coffeeshop’ – a place where they could ask questions, share stories and photos, and cultivate relationships,” said Jim Spradlin, GROWMARK vice president, agronomy. “GROWMARK is pleased to sponsor this site, which we hope will be fed by farmers everywhere.”

Anyone with an interest in North American agriculture may register for and use the free site. The mobile application will be available for iPhone and Android platforms in late summer.

FARMERS GETTING BETTER AT MANAGING NITROGEN USE

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!

This is the time of year that the Hypoxia Task Force does its sampling of the oxygen in the Gulf waters around the Mississippi River where it enters the Gulf.  The sampling takes a few weeks to get an accurate idea of what impact the Mississippi River water has on the oxygen levels which impact the marine life in the Gulf. 

The volume of water, organic debris, soil, fertilizers and everything else that was washed into the rivers with all the flooding this year will have an effect on the Gulf.  In fact, the water flow of the Mississippi River is one of the highest flows since the 1930’s and has exceeded the big flows in 1973.   Experts are expecting all this water and debris will create the largest hypoxic zone to date.  Try to imagine all the water from North Dakota, Montana to Pennsylvania flowing into one small area of the Gulf.  Then imagine all the land, urban property, cities, businesses and homes that were flooded sending their debris down the river.  That amounts to an amazing amount of organic debris, soil sediment and other pollutants all getting deposited into a small area in the Gulf.  It should be obvious that there will be an impact.

Since the Mississippi River drainage is composed mainly of cropland, agriculture has been pointed to as one of the sources of the organic matter and nitrogen that contribute to the hypoxia.  There is no doubt that the flooding of 100’s of thousands of acres did move a large quantity of crop residue, soil and fertility into the rivers that eventually go to the Gulf.  It is also possible that the very high water levels scoured out river beds, collapsed creek banks, river oxbows and lakes sending old sediment and nutrients down the river.  This contribution to the river has been called “the Legacy effect,” moving old deposits to the Gulf in high water events.

Agriculture has been increasingly diligent in decreasing the amount of nitrogen added to raise crops, in fact reducing the amount of nitrogen applied per bushel of yield by over 33% since the 1970’s.  Reduced tillage and precision fertilizer use and placement has also reduced the chance of losing nitrogen and phosphorus. 

In reality, agriculture is continually increasing its management skills to reduce nitrogen losses and spending their own money to develop new best management practices to increasingly protect the environment.  Each year there is a reduced chance and lower level of agriculture contributing nutrients to the Gulf to cause hypoxia.

Water quality is a priority for Illinois farmers.  Through continued research and growing interest in preserving the resources in our care, farmers are getting better and better at growing more with less and having a minimal impact on soil and water quality.

Mike Plumer
Former U of I Extension Specialist & Conservation Guru