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USDA and others to survey Illinois farms’ chemical use
By TIM ALEXANDER
Illinois Correspondent

PEORIA, Ill. — Farmers’ chemical use, pest management and irrigation practices for soybeans and wheat are being surveyed by the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) through mid-December.

“After a very favorable spring, followed by one of the worst droughts in U.S. history, it is extremely important for us to see how the growers are coping with these challenges,” said Brad Schwab, NASS’ Illinois field office director.

“The results of this survey will help agricultural leaders and decision-makers better understand how producers cope with risks and make decisions about chemical use, new technologies and other aspects of farming.”

Over the term of the study, NASS representatives will contact some 450 Illinois farmers (among 6,000 nationwide) to chronicle soybean and wheat growers’ production practices. During early 2013, NASS will follow up with producers to obtain additional economic and cost of production data.

Producers participating in the survey will find the results handy when making production decisions on their own farms, according to Schwab.

The NASS Agricultural Resource Management Survey will ask growers to provide information on their fertilizer or nutrient use, along with pest management practices. Information provided is confidential by law and no individual operation or grower will be identified. For more information on this survey in Illinois, call 800-622-9865.

In addition to the NASS poll, the Illinois Council on Best Management Practices (CBMP) announced last week it will partner with the University of Illinois to inventory soil nitrate levels in Illinois fields in order to fine-tune nitrogen (N) usage recommendations.
The CBMP is asking ag retailers and certified crop advisors to administer the sampling of soils per conditions set forth by U of I extension. The purpose of the sampling is to settle economic and environmental questions about the amount of N left in soils due to low corn yields and the early demise of crops in dry areas.

“This program is directly tied to CBMP’s Keep it for the Crop (KIC) program, whose mission is to minimize environmental impact, optimize nutrient utilization and maximize crop yield,” said Dan Schaefer, director of nutrient stewardship of CBMP.

He is coordinating the program with U of I extension specialists Dr. Emerson Nafziger and Dr. Fabian Fernandez. The study will examine fields that were in corn this year and will return to corn in 2013. The results will be used to help the fertilizer industry and farmers fine-tune application strategies for 2013, according to a press release from the CBMP.

Known as the Illinois Soil Monitoring Network, the program’s goal is to sample at least 75 sites to look not only at N levels, but also for residual ammonium following any fall applications of N, according to information provided by the Illinois Fertilizer & Chemical Assoc. (IFCA).

“As we all know, there are critics of fall-applied nitrogen and we need good science to demonstrate that fall-applied nitrogen is an effective agronomic practice when applied according to stewardship guidelines,” said Jean Payne, IFCA president, in an “Items of Interest” email to members.

“Soil testing will provide the science we need to fine-tune nitrogen recommendations and defend good nitrogen management practices.”

The study will rely on ag retailers and crop specialists who are willing to commit to collecting samples this fall and into next spring. For more information on the study or to acquire soil probes, contact Schaefer at 217-202-5173 or dschaefer@illinoiscbmp.org
Additional information is available at www.ifca.com
10/26/2012