Upstream Heroes: CTIC Spreads Nutrient Management Success Stories from along the Mississippi River




Farmers throughout the Mississippi River basin are making the right choices for nutrient efficiency and water quality protection, and CTIC is telling their story.

Photo courtesy of USEPA




Upstream Heroes: CTIC Spreads Nutrient
Management Success Stories from along the
Mississippi River


ByAmy Raley

With current recession-generated challenges on the minds and balance sheets of every business and industry, farmers are as vigilant today as ever in their quests for new, smart, cost-saving strategies to produce more with less. That's just one reason why CTIC is launching a new information campaign to share the stories of successful farmers who have found balance-sheet-boosting nutrient-management strategies that also benefit the environment.

"We want to capture the attention of producers who are eager for solutions that save money and time," says Karen Scanlon, executive director of CTIC. "Now is the ideal time for us to spread the word about successful farmers who are creating win-win situations on their farms by using the right product, applying it at the right rate, at the right time and in the right place — and saving money."

Current economic conditions combined with rising costs of fertilizers are causing farmers to closely reexamine what, when and how they apply nutrients. But beyond individual economic concerns are national and global concerns about agriculture's contribution to the Gulf of Mexico's oxygen-poor hypoxic zone. An overabundance of chemical nutrients is blamed for the zone's oxygen-depleting overgrowth of marine plant life, which impacts fish and other aquatic life.

Despite their distance from the Gulf of Mexico, farming operations all along the Mississippi River are seen as contributors to the hypoxiz zone because nutrient runoff that makes it into the Mississippi River eventually makes it into the gulf.

Scanlon says the latest technologies in nutrient management already are succeeding in addressing both the economic and environmental challenges, and CTIC is committed to sharing and explaining the technologies and exactly how they are working.

"CTIC has been a trusted source of information for agriculture for more than 26 years," Scanlon says. "We are uniquely qualified to convey current, credible, unbiased information that farmers can use to manage nutrients cost-efficiently and environmentally. But that's just part of this mission. We also want to reach out to the general public — particularly to those involved in water quality protection and advocacy. We want to make them aware that farmers are being proactive in their stewardship of our water resources through nutrient management practices that protect water quality upstream."

Scanlon says the campaign, which will reach local, regional and national media, has four key goals:

  • To showcase successful farmers who are making nutrient management a key part of their profitable operations
  • To encourage more farmers to follow the example of their successful neighbors and adopt wise nutrient management practices
  • To reinforce the messages in other media that reach farmers and their neighbors and
  • To communicate to the non-farming public that agriculture is working to protect the Gulf and other waterways.

Progress toward the goals already is being made. Christa Martin Jones, project director for CTIC, is consulting with agricultural experts and farmers with successful nutrient-management programs to harvest the success stories that will demonstrate to other producers why adopting such practices themselves is wise.

Watering cups cut water waste by 50 percent, reducing the volume of manure and increasing its nutrient concentration.

Photo courtesy of Steve Werblow

"We have been hard at work to reach farmers in Missouri's Bootheel, in south-central and southeastern Minnesota, and in the upper Wabash River watershed, which flows from Ohio through 12 counties in Indiana," Jones says. "At a meeting in early March, I met with representatives of Bootheel Resource Conservation and Development, Inc. and experts from the University of Missouri, the Missouri Corn Growers Association, and others, to look at the latest tools and techniques in farm nutrient management. There is a lot to talk about that makes very good sense for farmers' bottom lines as well as for the environment."

Jones says similar stakeholder collaborations are under way in southern Minnesota, where farmers may be even less likely to feel a connection to the Gulf's water woes. "A large number of water-quality agencies and advocates are involved and have contributed to a list of priorities for this effort," she says. "There is agreement that more research needs to be done to define the impact of nutrients on the environment so that we can base what we do on facts rather than perceptions, and we communicate the latest information effectively. And, of course, we all agree that we must do whatever we're able to do to improve the quality of impaired waters."

About the Writer: Amy Raley is a writer/editor from West Lafayette, Ind.