Manifolds, Manolos, and Manure
Mississippi River Basin states, including Illinois, have received guidance from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to develop state-led plans to reduce nutrient loads discharged into rivers and ultimately the Mississippi River. Based on federal guidance, Illinois released their statewide Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy (NLRS), which was developed by numerous partners including state agencies, extension services, and a multi-stakeholder group, which included Illinois Farm Bureau®.
NLRS charged point source and nonpoint source stakeholders with supporting research and implementing practices that would contribute to targets of reducing total phosphorus and nitrogen loss. Point sources are those you can “point to” – examples include wastewater treatment plants, factories, etc. Non-point sources are a little harder to define but include cropland, forest lands, etc.
Illinois Farm Bureau® developed the Nutrient Stewardship Grant Program, which Cook County Farm Bureau® has utilized to develop locally led projects to support the reduction of nitrogen and phosphorus loss. Farm Bureau has allocated up to $165,000 for county Farm Bureau-led nutrient loss reduction projects.
Cook County Farm Bureau’s projects to date include
- Struvite Research Support Research by the Margenot group at the University of Illinois has established that struvite is a viable slow-release phosphorus source for corn, soybeans, and wheat production in Illinois. Struvite can meet crop needs while offering a ‘double dipping’ of phosphorus loss reductions: first at the point source (Metropolitan Water Reclamation District or MWRD) and when re-used as a phosphorus fertilizer. A portion of this research is being conducted on Cook County farms and is supported through Farm Bureau grant funds.
- EQ Bio-Solids and Compost Promotions Cook County Farm Bureau in collaboration with MWRD engaged in an effort to share information about bio-compost and bio-solids. Cook CFB led promotional efforts through several media outlets, including paid social media posts and targeted advertisements in Cook CFB’s publications. Through social media, Farm Bureau reached over 20,000 users and engaged nearly 15,000 individuals.
- Sustainability Summit As part of the MWRD Sustainability Summit, Farm Bureau staff highlighted the District and Farm Bureau’s areas of collaboration to advance nutrient loss goals.
- Nutrient Loss Reduction Exchange To foster further collaboration and the sharing of knowledge, MWRD and Farm Bureau developed a partnership exchange program at MWRD facilities. These exchange days allowed Farm Bureau to bring farmers and other partners to MWRD facilities to see some of their point source nutrient reduction practices in action while fostering conversations about future efforts. Farm Bureau held this year’s program in conjunction with the Village of Alsip and the Chicago Region Trees Initiative.
- Partnerships Report To communicate and promote Farm Bureau’s efforts in the area of nutrient loss reduction, Farm Bureau drafted and distributed the “Agriculture and Point Source Partnership Report.” In addition to promoting research efforts and partnerships in the nutrient loss reduction arena, the report also detailed future goals including expanding collaborations with the district, partners, and farmers.
Updates regarding Farm Bureau’s efforts in the nutrient loss reduction sphere will continue to be shared with members.
Nutrient Loss Reduction Stewardship Idea Exchange Visit Awarding Winning Site
Exchange participants- including State Representative Kimberly duBuclet, pictured right join the Village of Alsip, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, and the Chicago Region Trees Initiative for a tour of the Alsip Boat Launch and the Mary Schmidt Community Sanctuary as part of Cook County Farm Bureau’s Nutrient Loss Reduction Stewardship Idea Exchange. The site received the 2022 Biosolids Beneficial Reuse award from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District during the Sustainability Summit.
Legislators Join Stewardship Idea
State Representative Kimberly duBuclet (pictured in the black coat) and State Representative Kelly Burke (pictured in the pink coat) listen as Zach Wirtz with the Chicago Region Trees Initiative discusses the use of EQ biosolids and compost to reconstruct topsoil and create a new, fertile growing space for over 200 trees, shrubs, and native prairie plants at the new Alsip Boat Launch and the Mary Schmidt Community Sanctuary.