The Illinois Demonstration Farms Partnership program will support the continuation and establishment of water quality monitoring and include farms for both row crop and livestock production, to evaluate the impact of a variety of BMPs, such as nitrogen management, cover crops, conservation tillage, drainage water management and others, on farm operations, soil health, water quality and other sustainability metrics. By collaborating and sharing technical expertise, educational and promotional resources, and in-field personnel, the effectiveness and impact of all of these programs will improve, providing even more support to Illinois farmers in making BMP implementation decisions.
The Illinois Council on Best Management Practices has identified four locations: Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield, Sugar Grove Nature Center in McLean, and Illinois Center College and George Roberts Site both in Peoria County. The sites will add edge of field water quality monitoring to farm scale demonstration sites that have implemented one or more BMPs to improve nutrient management, water quality or soil health.
Lincoln Land Community College (Springfield)
The Lincoln Land Community College Demonstration Site is utilizing the college’s agricultural fields to educate students, farmers and the general public about conservation practices that can improve water quality and soil health. By partnering with several programs and organizations, the site hosts cover crop plots, tile water monitoring equipment and a bioreactor for a full array of learning opportunities. The site has been serving as a Cover Crop Demonstration site with small plots of many different varieties of cover crops so students and farmers can see them first hand. The site will soon have a paired set of fields with and without cover crops to compare water quality, yield and soil health effects. Water quality monitoring equipment has been installed on the tile drains from the paired fields to capture changes in nutrients being lost from the fields. This year, both fields have been planted in soybean with no nitrogen fertilizer applied to establish baseline levels of nitrate, ammonium and phosphorus. This fall, cover crops will be planted on one of the fields. A bioreactor designed for nitrate removal has been installed to capture the tile drainage from this site and improve the quality of water leaving the site. The bioreactor will also be equipped with water monitoring equipment. As Lincoln Land Community College continues to develop its new Agricultural Watershed Management program, this site will serve as an outdoor laboratory and classroom for students to experience first-hand innovative conservation practices and develop the technical skills needed to manage them.
Illinois Central College (East Peoria)
Illinois Central College in East Peoria is utilizing the college’s agricultural fields for a variety of cover crop related demonstrations including variety plots and herbicide trials. The Demonstration Farms site will add water quality monitoring to two of the experimental fields. Each of the fields is tiled separately and will capture drainage from either a cover crop or no cover crop treatment area in a corn-soybean rotation. Water quality monitoring equipment is being installed to capture levels of nutrients being lost from the fields including nitrate, ammonium and phosphorus. The cover crop trials were established by Pete Fandel, one of CBMP’s Cover Crop Specialists and an Illinois Central College Instructor in the Agriculture program. These sites will be used to host field days for farmers and to provide hands on experience for ICC students learning about conservation, soil health and water quality.
Sugar Grove Nature Center
At the Sugar Grove Nature Center near McLean, Illinois, a cover crop demonstration site was established last fall when oats and radish were flown on during a field day. Through the Demonstration Farms program, stream and tile monitoring are being added to capture the nutrient levels coming from both a forested area and from a tile draining a restored prairie area. The site is publicly accessible and will include signage explaining the benefits of cover crops. The site will serve to educate farmers as well as the general public about cover crops, soil health and water quality. This work will be highlighted in conjunction with the Nature Center’s educational programs and in conjunction with the continuing Cover Crop Field Days.
George Roberts Site – Trivoli (Peoria Co.)
In Peoria County, a Demonstration Site has been established on the farm of George Roberts. Separately tiled fields of continuous corn have been equipped with flow monitors and automated water sampling equipment. A weather station and soil moisture probe have also been installed and soil samples are being taken periodically across both fields. Nitrogen is being split applied on these fields and in the fall, one of the fields will be planted with cover crops. A pond draining fields directly adjacent to the monitored fields is also being sampled for nitrate at inflow and outflow points. Several nearby tiles have been equipped with continuous flow monitors and are being sampled for nitrate weekly and periodically for phosphorus. One of the tiles drains a continuous soybean field and the other has a home septic system connected to it. There is also a cover crop/nitrogen management trial site nearby that will complement the water quality monitoring site for outreach events. A “field day” was held with the Peoria SWCD in March with positive feedback from the farmers who attended. Ben Herrmann is the field manager for the site.