Watershed map
Sampling sites
Water quality data

Salt Fork River Watershed
Tile Modification Project

Field Day August 13, 2013

Project results, July 2013


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Logo of our larger project with American Farmland Trust.

Lowell Gentry describing results during August 2011 field day.

This is the watershed we are working on, the Upper Salt Fork Ditch and Spoon River sections of the greater Upper Salt Fork.

Our project is focused on the Upper Salt Fork Drainage Ditch and Spoon River branch of the Salt Fork Watershed.

A group of researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign were funded in the fall of 2009 by the USDA CSREES National Integrated Water Quality Program, which is a nationally competitive program. This project builds on the water quality sampling that started in 2008 as part of the Salt Fork River Watershed Water Quality Monitoring Subcommittee. The USDA project ended August 30, 2013. However, work continues with support from American Farmland Trust and the Illinois Nutrient Research and Education Center. The lead investigator is Mark David, a professor in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences (NRES), with co-investigators Courtney Flint (NRES, now moved to Utah State University), George Czapar (University of Illinois Extension), Richard Cooke (Agricultural and Biological Engineering, ABE and Cooperative Extension), Greg McIsaac (NRES), and Prasanta Kalita (ABE).

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Our project is focused on the Spoon River and Upper Salt Fork Ditch watersheds.

Our team from left: Richard Cooke, Greg McIsaac, Prasanta Kalita, Mark David, Courtney Flint, and George Czapar.

View of the town of Royal, in the Spoon River watershed.

Click on any picture for larger view. More pictures.

In this project we are working closely with the Champaign County Soil and Water Conservation District. We have great support for this project from many groups, including:

Bruce Stikkers, Champaign County Soil and Water Conservation District
Eleanor Blackmon, Chair, Salt Fork River Watershed Implementation Committee
Steve Stierwalt, Chairman of the CCSWCD
Brad Ulen, Champaign County Farm Bureau
Douglas Yeskis, Gary Johnson, and Paul Terrio, USGS Illinois Water Science Center
Clark Bullard, Prairie Rivers Network
Al Wolfe, Salt Fork River Partners

Here is a summary of our project, including our long-term goal and what we have been focused on. We keep building our water quality sampling that has been underway since 2008. Fact sheet about project from 2011.

Our goal is to reduce nitrate loss from the watershed, by installing and testing two tile modification systems: water table management and saturated lateral buffers. We are working with cooperators in the watershed with typical farms that have tile drainage systems. We also need additional cooperators that will allow us to monitor their tiles and install new practices, so please contact us if you would like to take part. What monitoring is all about is explained here. We are also learning about what landowners, producers, and others think about water quality, how you respond to extension programs, and what help you might need to install these systems. During the summer of 2010 we interviewed and surveyed many of you, and learned a great deal about your thoughts on water quality and conservation practices. If you have any questions of any type, please contact any of us. Mark David can be reached at 217-333-4308, Richard Cooke at 217-333-0944, and George Czapar at 217-782-6515. Lowell Gentry also works with us and will visit your farm to see what practices might be best for your tile system (contact him at 217-333-1769).

We have installed water table management on one farm, and learned that saturated lateral buffers don’t fit the landscape of the Salt Fork (too flat along the ditches). As another management test on the impact on nitrate losses from tiles, we are examining fields where fertilization timing differs (fall to spring or sidedress). Our work also is coordinated with American Farmland Trust under their Mississippi River Basin Initiative (MRBI) Project.

Keep checking back at this site, as we will continue to expand the water quality data, show pictures of the systems in place, and update the community about our progress (see summary information on survey here). This document has more detailed information about 2010 survey results.

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Last modified July 11, 2014