June 20, 2024

Second ag retail survey begins

Kevin Johnson

PEORIA, Ill. — The second annual Illinois Ag Retail Survey is underway to collect data on nutrient management practices.

The survey is designed to collect data to track nitrogen and phosphorus use, application methods, tillage practices, cover crops and other efforts in Illinois to track endeavors to meet the Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy goals.

The survey is supported by the Illinois Beef Association, Illinois Certified Crop Advisers, Illinois Corn Growers, Illinois Farm Bureau, Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association, Illinois Pork Producers Association, Illinois Soybean Association and Illinois Council on Best Management Practices.

Illinois has 535 ag retail locations, of which 150 will be randomly selected for the survey.

Iowa State University’s Center for Survey Statistics and Methodology designed the survey, dividing Illinois into nine regions or crop reporting districts with a goal of surveying 10 randomly selected fields at each retail location surveyed. The survey is modeled after the Iowa Ag Retail Survey.

Ag retail businesses are randomly selected to acquire anonymous data related to agricultural practices from grower and customer records for the 2023 crop year.

IFCA regional liaisons will meet with the ag retailers to be surveyed. The survey runs through March.

“No names are collected through this survey. It’s totally anonymous. We don’t even ask for a name. The anonymous data is inputted into a private server through Iowa State University,” said Kevin “KJ” Johnson, IFCA president, during the organization’s annual conference.

“This is not just an IFCA-backed project. It is a group effort. The commodity organizations are united on this because at the end of the day we are trying to show what we’re actually doing in agriculture.”

There is an opt-out option.

Interim Goals Near

The survey begins after the release of the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy biennial report to gauge how the state is doing in relations to the goals of reducing nitrogen losses by 15% and phosphorus losses by 25% by 2025 with an eventual goal of reducing both losses by 45%.

“The biennial report showed what was going on with nutrients in Illinois. Nitrogen loss came down, but phosphorus went back up,” Johnson said.

The next major report will be in 2025, indicating whether Illinois achieved the interim goals under the NLRS.

“My opinion is after 2025 that’s when I think you could actually see regulations on nutrients. What that is, I don’t know, but I think you could see that in 2026 and 2027,” Johnson said.

“Have there been conversations down in Springfield regarding this? Absolutely, but I think when that report comes out at the end of 2025, you’re going to see more of a push on regulations in 2026 and 2027.”

Johnson foresees the state of Illinois will make a bigger push toward cover crops, particularly through its Fall Covers for Spring Savings program.

Eligible applicants receive a $5 per acre insurance premium discount on the following year’s crop insurance invoice for every acre of cover crop enrolled and accepted in the program.

“I think there will be a major push in the spring legislative session to triple, if not quadruple, that funding for that program. Cover crops are not going away and is going to be part of this into the future, Johnson said.

Iowa is also implementing nutrient loss reduction practices with its own strategies.

“The difference between Illinois and Iowa is the state of Iowa has already set aside $200 million over 10 years to go toward water quality,” he said.

“As much as I’d love to see the state of Illinois put some money towards this, we know what the budget restrictions are here in Illinois. I just don’t see that. I think there’s going to be a lot more piggybacking with the federal programs on water quality.”

Initial Results

The first Illinois Ag Retail Survey conducted a year ago collected 917 data points from 150 retailers. There were 13 opt-outs.

Survey highlights included:

• 80% of fields utilize a corn-soybean rotation.

• 91% of respondents conduct soil tests every four years.

• 49% of every cornfield surveyed had ammonia applied in the fall, with 97% of those respondents using a nitrification inhibitor.

• 40% used variable rate technology for fertilizer applications.

• Average nitrogen application rate was 190 pounds per acre, which falls within the Maximum Return to Nitrogen recommendations.

• 44% of soybean acres were no-till.

• 24% of corn acres were no-till.

• 9% of fields surveyed planted cover crops.

• Much of the data provided in the first survey was in line with estimates from state and federal agencies, as well as other states.

Tom Doran

Tom C. Doran

Field Editor