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Project designed to show that ag is ‘committed to reducing nutrient loss’

—Rachel Schrage
Public Relations Team

Representatives from Indiana Farm Bureau, IDEM, NRCS, IUPUI and EPA Region 5 toured School Branch watershed, a small part of the larger Eagle Creek watershed, in April. Photo by Rachel Schrage.

In January, a number of Indiana farm organizations announced the Nutrient Management/Soil Health Strategy – a new voluntary initiative focused on improvement of soil health and management of nutrients on farmland.

The strategy is taking a long-term look at projects to measure changes in water quality associated with conservation farming techniques that improve soil health, such as cover crops and conservation tillage. The strategy also includes efforts to provide better access to technical information on nutrient need and application.

In April, Region 5 EPA officials came to central Indiana from Chicago to discuss goals for the strategy and provide feedback on the project. As part of the ongoing effort to conduct on-farm research, participants toured the School Branch Creek watershed in Brownsburg, Ind., a small part of the larger Eagle Creek watershed. The tour was used to inform EPA of ongoing research on nutrient removal research using a bioswale (a landscape element designed to remove silt and pollution from surface runoff water and subsurface water). It showcased farms with high levels of conservation farming.

The watershed, the land in which is primarily for agriculture, will also be the site of ongoing monitoring, both in stream and at the edge of the field, to document the effectiveness of different management techniques in reducing nutrient loss from fields.

“We want to show the EPA that agriculture is committed to reducing nutrient loss from soil as much as is practical,” said Justin Schneider, senior policy advisor and counsel for Indiana Farm Bureau. “We want to show that farmers will do this voluntarily, without additional regulations being imposed upon them.”

Additional EPA Region 5 representatives will return in late June to provide additional input in the design of the research projects in the School Branch Creek watershed.

An example of a bioswale in the School Branch watershed. Photo by Rachel Schrage.
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