Awareness of nutrient loss among Illinois corn farmers
Journal of Soil and Water Conservation
Nitrogen (N) fertilizer runoff in the Mississippi River Basin contributes to a hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico. Through efforts such as the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy, farmers are being challenged to voluntarily change production practices to limit the amount of N lost from their fields through runoff. Best management practices currently recommended to reduce nutrient loss include cover crops, optimal application timing, bioreactors, wetlands, and buffers. However, the
... of new or unfamiliar farming practices such as these best management practices is inherently risky for farmers. In order to gain a more detailed understanding of how farmers perceive nutrient loss, and their willingness to voluntarily comply with nutrient loss reduction goals, a survey was designed and administered to approximately 3,850 members of the Illinois Corn Growers Association. The survey was designed in consultation with nutrient loss experts at the Illinois Corn Growers Association, whose membership was chosen because they would be most affected by regulation limiting N application timing or rates. Questions addressed farmers' demographics, nutrient loss concerns, and production practices related to reducing nutrient loss. Key findings from the 762 completed surveys include the importance placed on conservation practices in respondents' farming operations, a high level of concern about nutrient loss, and operational changes already made in response to those concerns. By providing insights on how farmers perceive and are responding to nutrient runoff, this study can contribute to efforts encouraging voluntary compliance with the goals of the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy.