GREEN WEEK: WATER QUALITY

Its Green Week and we’re all supposed to be making an effort to think about recycling what can be used again and reducing what we throw away in the first place.  This includes water.

Yes, this morning I caught my sweet little five year old with the water running while he put toothpaste on his toothbrush.  This week, and every week, I quickly turned the water off for him in order to use less.  I’m telling you, my week in Texas taught me that water is a MUCH more precious resource than I had taken time to realize.

Farmers realize it though.  Their livelihood as well as their very lives depend on water.  Having enough water is important, yes, but the quality of the water they leave behind is equally as important.

NOTE: During a Chicago mom meet-up for Illinois Farm Families, one of the Chicago mom’s was surprised to learn that farm families use water from a well on their property.  They do not have access to city water that has been through a treatment plant.  This is an example of how urban and rural folks just have understanding gaps!  Having grown up on a farm, I would have never thought to detail to an urban dweller how our water comes from a well.  The urbanite would have never considered a means for getting water other than what they had always known!  Point to the story, farmers and their families live off water from a well nearby to their home that is untreated excepting the natural filtration of dirt and rock.  Makes sense that we wouldn’t want to ruin it with chemicals and other nastiness so we’re pretty careful.

What exactly are farmers doing about water quality?  How are they ensuring that the water they leave behind is as good as they found it?

Well, first of all, farmers are very thoughtful about how they use water.  They never apply more chemicals or fertilizers than are needed and with the addition of GPS, they are able to only apply products to the exact area of the field that needs help rather than the whole field.  These things help.

Farmers are also studying how the fertilizers and chemicals that they apply leave the field.  Tiling is very popular in Illinois to remove excess water from the field during times of heavy rainfall, but when we make it even easier for water to exit the field without soil, sand, and rock to slow it down, naturally more fertilizers and chemicals will leave with it.

What we’ve found is that if we apply our products at the right time of the year, we minimize how much leaves the field.  That’s a positive.

(Read more about what IL Corn is doing to research best management practices for water quality by checking out the KIC 2025 effort here.)

And our research is leading us to some interesting conclusions about how farm ground performs in terms of nutrient runoff compared to ground with other uses.  Thinking logically, municipalities (where much of the ground is covered with concrete and the water isn’t absorbed into the ground to be filtered naturally) might have high nutrient runoffs because fertilizers are quickly transported via water running through streets and drainage systems.  Wooded areas (think leaves falling, organic matter decomposing all winter and then nutrients flushed out when snow melts and spring rains hit) can have a significant nutrient runoff, especially during key times of the year.  These sorts of things are being researched through the Discovery Farms system in Wisconsin.

Bottom line, farmers are concerned about water quality.  They and their families have to drink the water they leave behind!  So they are thoughtful and deliberate about every action they take in order to preserve their way of live for future generations.

And THAT’S how Illinois farmers celebrate Green Week.

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

About corncorps

As Illinois' corn farmers, we're proud to power a sustainable economy through ethanol, livestock and nutritious food. We love agriculture, the land and CornBelters baseball.See http://ilcorn.org or follow us on Twitter, http://twitter.com/ilcorn.
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