A new Illinois program aims to reduce nutrient losses in priority watersheds through enhanced nutrient stewardship practices.

Illinois agriculture organizations announced the collaborative program to promote, implement and track the rate of adoption of enhanced nutrient stewardship practices by Illinois agricultural producers this week. “Keep it for the Crop by 2025” will focus on the 4R’s of nutrient stewardship: right source, right rate, right time, and right place.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) has identified six priority watersheds for nutrient reductions including Lake Bloomington, Lake Vermilion, Lake Decatur, Vermilion River (Illinois Basin), Salt Fork Vermilion River (Wabash Basin) and Lake Mauvaisse Terra.

Marcia Wilhite, IEPA’s Bureau of Water chief, said, “The lakes and rivers in these watersheds have water quality problems due to too much nitrogen or phosphorus, or both. Illinois EPA strongly endorses efforts to promote voluntary action by producers to adopt nutrient stewardship practices in their watersheds. If everyone does their part, we can assure clean water for future generations.”

The Illinois Council on Best Management Practices (CBMP) will implement the KIC by 2025 program. CBMP’s members include the Illinois Corn Growers Association, Illinois Farm Bureau, Illinois Fertilizer & Chemical Association, Illinois Soybean Association, Illinois Pork Producers and Syngenta Crop Protection.

Gary Hudson, a corn grower and president of CBMP, said, “Farmers are very concerned about good stewardship and water quality. That is why we developed the KIC program and we encourage everyone to help us in our efforts to educate not only growers, but our communities as well, as this program goes forward.”

KIC by 2025 lays out a framework to continually promote, implement and measure adoption of the 4R system by producers and agricultural retailers who provide custom nutrient application.

According to Jean Payne, president of the Illinois Fertilizer & Chemical Association (IFCA), the industry is also working to secure dedicated funding from the ag sector for KIC by 2025 with state legislation that creates the Illinois Nutrient Research & Education Council.

In the meantime, start-up funding for the program is being provided by the Illinois Corn Marketing Board, the Illinois Soybean Association and IFCA fertilizer manufacturer members Agrium, CF Industries, Koch Fertilizer, The Mosaic Company and Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan.

Environmental organizations also expressed support for the program. Jack Darin of the Illinois Sierra Club said, “We know farmers want clean water, and we also know they want to avoid waste and unnecessary costs in their operation. By using the latest techniques and knowledge to apply the right amount of nutrients, at the times when the crops need it, farmers can cut costs and improve water quality.”

Phillip Nelson, president of the Illinois Farm Bureau, reinforced that Illinois producers are major stakeholders in this efforts. “We have always believed that farmers are among the original stewards of our soil and water. KIC by 2025 will provide the resources, knowledge and outreach needed to ensure that growers make the best possible decisions when it comes to implementing practices that protect our streams and rivers and further enhance nutrient efficiencies in agricultural production.”