The wet spring weather may be keeping most Illinois corn farmers out of the fields lately, but it shouldn't keep them from gathering a water sample while tile lines are running.
IL Corn backed water testing sites are up and running across the state offering free, confidential nitrate testing for anyone that brings in a sample. The results represent just a snapshot in time of the nitrate concentration. If an estimate of water volume flow is also available, the data can be interpreted to indicate a total nitrogen loss from the drained acreage.
"We're really encouraging our members and all corn farmers to bring in at least one water sample to be tested," said Justin Durdan, Illinois Corn Growers Association (ICGA) 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."
ICGA supports voluntary best management practices (BMPs) to limit nutrient loss from corn farms. Those BMPs can come from a suite of choices including spring nitrogen application including a post-plant application, cover crops, constructed wetlands, or bioreactors, to name a few.
"We know that each farm has individual circumstances and that the farmer is the person that's best situated to make the strategy for that ground," Durdan said. "What works for one person in one area probably won't work the same for someone else, but what we do know at ICGA is that every corn acre needs at least one BMP in order for us to meet the expectations of the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy."
"Water testing at one of the sites around Illinois is a good start to figuring out your on-farm strategy to prevent nutrient loss," Durdan added.
A complete list of the IL Corn supported water testing sites is available on the ICGA website at www.ilcorn.org/nutrientstrategy. There is no cost for the testing. The results are not recorded and remain confidential. The testing program is for farm water including water coming from tile lines and other water drainage mechanisms, ponds, and streams. It is not intended for well water or drinking water sources.
A water sample should be in a volume of at least eight ounces and taken in a clean container, free of any residual chemicals or detergents. Collect the water sample as close to testing time as possible, or at least within 48 hours, and refrigerated until testing time. Samples may be frozen and thawed ahead of testing day to accommodate schedules or when the tile is running. A complete set of sample collection instructions and a flow calculator can be found on the Illinois Council on Best Management Practices website at www.illinoiscbmp.org/water-testing.