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Conservation Corner

Midwest Cover Crop Council’s New Mobile App for Cover Crops

Fri, April 27, 2018

It’s here! The Midwest Cover Crops Council @CoverCropsMCCC now has an APP to get farmers and landowners all the valuable info, data & guidance they need on mobile phones or tablets. 


This is a great website that offers important data, species, dates, and management information about cover crops that work in Illinois soils.


Now customers can purchase the mobile app for easy use on devices other than their PC or laptop computer. Please let your farmers, customers, SWCD Directors and staff know about this so we can answer any questions that come up in Field Offices. Here is the address to the news release from Purdue University:


http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/releases/2018/Q2/mobile-app-now-available-for-cover-crop-field-guide.html


The digital version of the guide provides additional cover crop photos beyond what’s found in the printed guide. The app is available with an annual subscription for $2.99. The subscription fee allows the MCCC to periodically update the app throughout the year with the latest available content.

 

You can find it by searching “cover crop” in either the App Store or Google Play. Direct links are available on the MCCC website at http://mccc.msu.edu/.

 

The development of this app was made possible by the Walton Family Foundation.

 

 

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Opinion: Earth Day calls for conservation that starts from the ground up - literally

Fri, April 27, 2018


I wanted to share a link to an opinion article published for Earth Day.  It has some real good information on conservation.  Also promotes NRCS’ Conservation programs.  If you want to learn more about cover crops or NRCS conservation programs, contact your local USDA Service Center.


https://www.agri-pulse.com/articles/10876-opinion-earth-day-calls-for-conservation-that-starts-from-the-ground-up—-literally

This Earth Day, it may be the earth right under our feet that matters most. While we do not think about it often, our soil impacts almost every element of our daily lives, from the food we eat and the water we drink, to the health of our local economies. Just ask any farmer, who will tell you that healthy soil is good for farms, farmers and farming communities because it leads to more productive farmland, cleaner water and a stronger agricultural economy.


Here in the Midwest, row crops like corn, soybeans and wheat are the cornerstone of the region’s economy, generating more than $120 billion in revenue annually. But, over the decades, growing these crops has taken a heavy toll on farms and the quality of the water that surrounds them.


Since the mid-1800s, agricultural soils in the U.S. have lost up to 60 percent of their original carbon content. This has altered the Midwestern landscape by exacerbating loss of key nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus that farmers add to the soil in the form of fertilizer. These nutrients are essential to growing soybeans and corn but are often unintentionally lost to rivers and streams, where they become pollutants and waste farmers’ money.


Today, in regions like the Mississippi River Basin, up to 40 percent of all streams are impaired, many from excess nutrients. Ultimately, these nutrients end up in the Gulf of Mexico and create ‘dead zones’ where fish and marine life can’t survive.


But this isn’t just about the environment; it’s about our economy. Losing nutrients into rivers and streams is bad for farm economics, and long-term profitability and prosperity of farms. However, many farmers have found that environmentally-friendly tactics that improve water quality also build soil health and also their bottom lines.


Farmers like Will Glazik in Paxton, Illinois have taken to planting cover crops – one of several sustainable farming practices that reduce nutrient loss– on his 240 acre corn and soybean farm. Cover crops control weed growth and help the soil hold water, so the land is less likely to experience drought. This farming practice ultimately makes the earth more resilient and less likely to cause pollutants like nitrogen and phosphorous to enter rivers and streams. Healthier soil means healthier crops, and for Glazik and other farmers, that has meant healthier profits.


Cover crops aren’t the only innovative technique farmers are using to take care of their land and water. Many farmers are changing their fertilizer use to save on cost and reduce the risk of losing nutrients. Farmers are shifting the rate of fertilizer application as well as timing to keep key nutrients in the soil where crops can access them. As more farms adopt these practices, it is increasingly clear: conservation pays.


Last week, lawmakers in Washington began debate over this year’s Farm Bill, which has for years funded the valuable programs that help farmers implement conservation practices. But the draft Farm Bill introduced in the House would eliminate the country’s largest conservation program – the Conservation Stewardship Program – that currently offers support and resources to farmers on 70 million acres of farmland across the country. The disappearance of this landmark program would limit farmers’ access to funding and technical assistance to improve water quality and soil health. Ultimately, this means more pollutants in our rivers and streams and a weakened farm economy.


When we look at the earth all around us, it’s clear that it’s time for conservation to move from the edge of the field to the heart of agriculture. We must support farmers’ efforts to understand and implement those conservation practices that will not only help their soil thrive, but also help their farms profit well into the future.


When it comes to preserving the farming heritage that is so integral to this country, the answer is right beneath our feet.


About the author: Mcdonald leads the Walton Family Foundation’s Mississippi River conservation initiative.

 

 

 

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Improving Water Quality One Farm At A Time

Fri, April 20, 2018

Improving Water Quality One Farm At A Time


Water quality concerns are a growing priority in urban and rural communities everywhere. The State of Illinois’ Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy identifies goals and tactics to address issues using voluntary solutions. Conservation options from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) offer farmers technical and financial assistance—that means guidance and dollars—to help you do the right thing. That’s exactly what David Olson is doing on his farm in Vermilion County.


Olson tapped into special funds through the National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI). NWQI offers solutions through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, or EQIP, which helps producers install conservation farm solutions that reduce nitrogen, phosphorous, sediment and other pathogens from local water sources. Farmers and operators interested in addressing water quality concerns can apply for EQIP funds at any time and start improving water quality today.


Because water in Lake Vermilion serves as the drinking water source for the City of Danville, it’s even more important that local farmers like Olson do their part to support local and statewide water quality improvement efforts.


David and Amy Olson farm about 1,800 acres in Vermilion and Iroquois Counties. Their Century farm is home to many conservation practices and management techniques, but Olson needed some financial help to cover costs associated with adding more cover crops on his farms. He signed up for EQIP through the NWQI and was approved for funding.


NRCS District Conservationist Adam Wyant was glad to see a local farmer step up to add even more conservation to his acres in this important watershed. “Cover crops and soil health improvements are hot topics these days. David is a long-time believer in the benefits they can bring,” Wyant explains. Over the years, Olson has worked with local Soil and Water Conservation Districts and others to host field day events at his farm to show others what he’s learned.


“But there are costs and expenses to make those changes in my operation,” says Olson. “And if I can get some of that covered because I’m doing the right thing to help fix the community’s drinking water? That’s an easy decision,” Olson adds. EQIP funds helped Olson develop a plan, select the perfect species to address issues on his fields, and pay for seed and application costs.


“All farmers in Illinois can take steps to protect their soils and make improvements for their farm and local water supplies just like David. If every farmer and landowner here did just one new conservation practice on their farm, we could drastically impact poor conditions in the Mississippi River Basin and beyond,” Wyant said.


Are you ready to make a difference and improve water quality on your farm? Get in touch with your local NRCS office and start the conservation conversation.


To read David Olson’s full story visit https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/il/newsroom/stories/?cid=nrcseprd1391328  .


I highly recommend that you go to the link to learn more about Olson and see the pictures that I cannot post due to agency IT security rules.


To find your nearest NRCS team, visit http://www.il.nrcs.usda.gov.

 

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