Nutrient stewardship research at Fred Blessing’s farm in Wayne County started three years ago through the Illinois Farm Bureau Nutrient Stewardship Grant Program. But when the extremely wet spring of 2019 left several fields bare, including the test plot, the research project began looking at the use of nutrient management and cover crops to improve soil health in prevent-planted acres.
The Nutrient Loss Inhibitor Demonstration (NLID) plot at Blessing’s farm was created to help farmers in the county improve their nitrogen management practices. The research uses nutrient enhancers and inhibitors, as well as micro and secondary nutrient applications to demonstrate fertilizer efficiency.
Last year, weather conditions kept the plot from being planted in corn, as previously planned. Instead, a cover crop mix was put on the field to reduce the risk of soil erosion and nutrient loss, common problems agronomist John Pike said he sees in unplanted fields.
A second plot on Blessing’s farm near the NLID study was unable to be planted entirely last year. This field became part of the research project, used to understand the potential impact of phosphorus applications on fallow ground.
The corn crop growing in the field this year has shown notable differences between phosphorus treatments. Mike Wilson, a certified crop advisor and independent ag consultant, said that so far, the most impressive results have been with early season, in-furrow phosphorus applications.
“When we harvest this year, that’s when we are going to see a true difference,” he said.
Both Wilson and Pike see tremendous value in the fallow ground research that has been added to the NLID project. Wilson said he hopes the data collected can help prepare farmers for extreme weather conditions they may face in the future.
“This is good information that was brought on last year in a big scale, but I think it’s something that farmers can also use on a yearly basis if they do experience some problems with prevented planting or flooding in certain watersheds or fields,” added Pike.
Wayne County Farm Bureau Manager Doug Anderson said the fallow ground studies were an unexpected bonus to the nutrient research project.
“It just adds another level of information we can provide to our farmers in this year’s NLID project,” he said. “It’s been a really successful opportunity for Wayne County farmers.”
Blessing, who recently hosted a virtual field day on his farm to discuss the research, agreed. “The thing that I like the most about doing this is this research actually comes off my own farm, and that’s really valuable,” he said.
The Wayne County research was made possible by collaborative efforts between Illinois Farm Bureau, Wayne County Farm Bureau, Wabash Valley FS, Southern Illinois University Carbondale and the Illinois Nutrient Research and Education Council.