NREC expanding studies to on-farm research in 2018

Research proposals being accepted based on farmer input and the goals of the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy.DH1vxjb Xg AAcx 2_ Large .jpg

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By Kay Shipman

New 2018 research priorities seek to build on the Illinois Nutrient Research and Education Council’s (NREC) research-based knowledge while exploring farm-scale applications.

“We’re taking the good things we’ve done, and we want to scale up so more farmers can use them,” said Mercer County farmer Jeff Kirwan, who represents the Illinois Farm Bureau on the NREC board.

Since 2013, NREC has funded research and education projects using money from an assessment of 75 cents per ton of fertilizer sold.

Recently, NREC started accepting 2018 research proposals for key topic areas based on farmer input and the goals of the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy.

Nitrogen and phosphorous management remain a focus joined by tile and conservation systems, outreach and education.

New in 2018 will be an on-farm research and demonstration emphasis. Several NREC-funded projects, including N-Watch’s soil nitrogen testing, integrated study with on-farm components, said Julie Armstrong, NREC executive director.

Related: Contemplating an on-farm field trial? Click here for a few tips.

Building upon past on-farm successes, more researchers are encouraged to apply their practices to field-scale demonstrations and studies, Armstrong said.

In addition, NREC is seeking research proposals to study ways to reduce phosphorous losses in unglaciated areas, which primarily are in southern Illinois. “We definitely want to look at the unglaciated soils and the more challenging soils that southern Illinois has to deal with,” Kirwan said.

Several issues related to cover crops surfaced under nitrogen and phosphorous research. Those include management challenges, especially related to this year’s growing season, and best management practices.

For its 2018 priorities, NREC sought input from an extensive list of ag and conservation organizations, including Farm Bureau, water treatment professionals and others interested in nutrient stewardship. NREC received about 80 responses, according to Armstrong.

Research proposals are due Sept. 29, and the NREC board will vote on project funding in December and release its decisions in January, Armstrong said. 

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