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Three Year Research Study Announced at Nutrient Loss & Soil Health Field Day at the Dudley Smith Farm
August 26, 2016
TAYLORVILLE, IL - University of Illinois Extension held a Nutrient Loss & Soil Health Field Day at the Dudley Smith Farm, near Pana, IL, on August 19. University of Illinois – College of ACES and the Nutrient Research and Education Council (NREC) are supporting a nutrient loss and water quality research project taking place at the Dudley Smith Farm site. The College of ACES / Office of Research, through the Dudley Smith Initiatives, announced a 3-year study titled: “Balancing water quality and nutrient management goals for the sustainable intensification of corn systems”. This project will help answer questions on the effects of combining water quality practices on corn production and tile drainage nutrient losses in Illinois.
Dr. Neal Merchen, University of Illinois College of ACES Office of Research, welcomed attendees and said, “The Dudley Smith Farm has created very unique opportunities over the years to do research that is targeted toward principles established in association with the Dudley Smith Initiative. One of these principles is to do research that is innovative and develops and applies new agricultural technology. The second principle stresses a strong sense of environmental stewardship, management, and respect for the land and water resources that are so important to agriculture in Illinois.” He went on to add that, “The third principle is to maintain a relationship with and strengthen the health of the rural community.”
Dr. Merchen also introduced the research project soon to be launched at the Dudley Smith Farm by saying, “We are establishing a unique field tile drainage system here. I am not aware of anything quite like it the Midwest, except for a couple of sites in Iowa.” He went on to add that, “The data collected will allow researchers to look at the quality of water flowing off these research fields and to do it on an individual plot basis. So we can look at different treatments relative to fertilizer applications, cover crop utilization, and other agronomic practices.”
Gary Letterly, Extension Environmental Stewardship Educator, said, “The Dudley Smith farm has served as a research and demonstration site for over a decade. During this time, the value of the farm to stakeholders in the community has been in its ability to host relevant research issues with critical topics that affect lives, livelihoods and the quality of living in the Midwest.” He added that, “This new research project will deal with combinations of field practices related to balancing water quality and nutrient management goals for the sustainable intensification of corn systems”. The project research team includes: Dr. Cameron Pittelkow, Dr. Laura Christianson, Dr. Rabin Bhattarai, and Gary Letterly, Extension Environmental Stewardship Educator.
Dr. Laura Christianson, Assistant Professor of Water Quality at the University Of Illinois College of ACES said, “One of the reasons we are conducting this research project on the Dudley Smith Farm is the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy. Research has shown that Nitrogen and Phosphorous getting into the Mississippi River results in a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.” She goes on to add that, “It can sometimes be hard to relate to something that is happening 1,000 miles away, however if there is Nitrogen and Phosphorous getting into the Mississippi River, it means we also have it in our water here in Illinois. It’s also a local concern, as well as a regional and national issue.”
Dr. Cameron Pittelkow, University of Illinois ACES Department of Crop Sciences, gave an overview and highlighted the goals of the research project. Pittelkow said, “The project will attempt to answer the question ‘What’s the best way to meet our Illinois Strategy goals?’” He added that in order to do this, “We will employ various nutrient loss strategies at the same site and then measure the results. The unique thing about this project is that we are equally emphasizing the agronomy, the management, and paying attention to our crop nutrient uptake, our soil nutrient availability, as well as what is coming out of the title system.” Pittelkow emphasized that, “It takes a lot of cooperation between different fields of study to make a project like this work.”
Key discussions were led by project researchers during the morning program. Soil Health Partnership (SHP) and their cooperators and staff from across the Midwest co-sponsored the field day. SHP staff provided a regional briefing and answer program related questions throughout the morning. Jim Isermann, Illinois Field Manager for Soil Health Partnership, said, “One important question we are going to have, as we come up with nutrient loss reduction strategies, is how can we implement them in the real world. That’s one of the big goals with the Soil Health Partnership.” He goes on to add that, “In order for producers to adopt various strategies they are going to have to see the data behind it and know that in the long run it pays.”
Speakers and topics for the program included:
Welcome and Introductions - Gary Letterly
U of I – ACES, Office of Research – Dr. Neal Merchen
Project Overview and Goals – Dr. Cameron Pittelkow
Bioreactors and Other Edge-of-Field Concepts – Dr. Laura Christianson
Water Quality Modeling – Dr. Rabin Bhattarai
Soil Health Partnership in Illinois – Jim Isermann & Dr. Nick Goeser, Director of Soil Health and Sustainability, National Corn Growers Association
Attendees were also introduced to Fred & Danny Curtin, Farm Operators of the Dudley Smith Farm.
The event was hosted by the University of Illinois Extension, Unit 18 and coordinated by Gary Letterly, Extension Educator, Energy and Environmental Stewardship. The program was supported by the University of Illinois Dudley Smith Initiatives, ACES office of Research, University of Illinois Extension, Illinois Nutrient Research and Education Council, and the Soil Health Partnership. Lunch was provided and the program was free of charge. CCA CEU credits were available. (Soil & Water Management CEUs: 2.0)
Anyone interested in more information about the Nutrient Loss & Soil Health Field Day may call the Christian County Extension office at 217-287-7246 or contact Gary Letterly, by calling the Christian County Extension office or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo Caption: Members of the project research team: (Left to Right) Gary Letterly, Extension Environmental Stewardship Educator; Dr. Rabin Bhattarai, University of Illinois College of ACES/ABA; Dr. Cameron Pittelkow, Dr. Cameron Pittelkow, University of Illinois ACES Department of Crop Sciences; and Dr. Laura Christianson, Assistant Professor of Water Quality at the University Of Illinois College of ACES.