By TIM ALEXANDER
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — Earth Day is a good time for farmers to consider implementing or expanding conservation practices and to assess the effectiveness of existing practices, and a great place to start is with water quality testing.
Farmers can have water sources tested for nitrate presence and remain anonymous
under a free program offered by Illinois Corn and administered through the Illinois
Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy (NLRS), a strategy designed to encourage farmers to use proven best management practices (BMPs) that reduce nutrient losses. The free program is being offered at dozens of county Farm Bureau and Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs) throughout the state, and will continue throughout the summer at many locations.
“We’re really encouraging our members and all corn farmers to bring in at least one
water sample to be tested,” said Dustin Durdan, Illinois Corn Growers Assoc. president. “It’s difficult to establish a strategy for nutrient management on your farm if you don’t have any idea where you’re starting.”
Water samples should be submitted in a clean and clear container in volumes of 8 or more ounces. Samples should be taken no more than 48 hours prior to submission and should remain refrigerated, if stored. The testing is for water drawn from tile lines and other drainage mechanisms, ponds and streams; the program is not
intended for testing well water or drinking water sources.
Participation in the program ensures that farmers are engaging in at least one voluntary BMP, which is a requirement of the NLRS. “Every corn acre needs at least one BMP in order for us to meet the expectations of the Illinois NLRS,” Durdan said. A complete set of sample collection instructions can be found on the Illinois Council for BMPs website at www.illinoiscbmp.org
Some participating locations will offer water testing only on certain days or by reservation. Contact Carolyn Wade, Illinois Corn, at 309-231-7440, for more information, or contact your county Farm Bureau or SWCD office to see if they are participating. A listing of participating offices, dates and times for testing is accessible through the Illinois Corn website at www.ilcorn.org