Farmers Take Action to Protect Streams and Rivers
Every spring when John Traub plants and fertilizes his corn and soybean crops, he knows he may affect water quality for people hundreds of miles away.
That’s why he bases his farming practices on “intentional forethought.” Traub, who farms near Fairbury with his son, John Jacob, joined the Indian Creek Watershed project about two years ago.
“The watershed project is a vehicle to get conservation practices on the ground,” says Traub, a watershed steering committee member. “If water is not running off our fields, the nutrients stay where they’re needed by the crops.”
Indian Creek in Livingston County eventually joins the Mississippi River. The Indian Creek Watershed covers 52,480 acres of farmland.
Traub has plenty of company across the state with farmers in nearly a dozen other watersheds protecting and preserving the quality of streams and rivers. He and his watershed neighbors use a variety of soil conservation and fertilizer management methods to hold soil and fertilizers in place.
“We picked this watershed because most of the farms are small to medium-sized, and they are farmed by people who own the land. They are willing to try new methods because they want to keep the farm in the family,” says Terry Bachtold, Livingston County Soil and Water Conservation District agricultural resource coordinator.
Efforts in the watershed focus on reducing nitrate levels in Fairbury’s drinking water. Five monitoring sites along the creek will collect water quality data through 2015.
The five-year project focuses on more efficient fertilizer application, as excessive levels of nitrogen and phosphorus can result in algae growth and threaten aquatic life, recreation and drinking water supplies.
“We have resources in the watershed that we need to take care of,” says Traub. “The watershed project has helped us stop and think. We have become more focused on soil health because we see good water infiltration. The nutrients are staying where they’re needed. There is no more ideal situation.”