Maria Boerngen: Farmer Perspectives on Nutrient Reduction

DIFM’s Maria Boerngen was recently featured in CSA News Magazine for her study focused on farmer perspectives on nutrient loss strategies:

Maria Boerngen, an Assistant Professor of Agribusiness at Illinois State University, is interested in understanding how farmers access information and how they use that information in decision-making. In Agricultural & Environmental Letters (https://doi.org/10.2134/ael2019.02.0004), Boerngen and co-author Benjamin Marks recently published results of a study focused on farmer perspectives on nutrient loss strategies in one Illinois county. This pilot project was in preparation for a larger survey, but the approach is relevant for understanding how farmers discover information in general. For example, how do farmers learn about new crop varieties or new equipment? Or, what makes an individual farmer decide to implement a new management practice?

This specific pilot study consisted of a telephone survey of 30 farmers, conducted in 2016–2017. The researchers wanted to determine if farmers were familiar with the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy, if farmers were concerned with nutrient loss, and if farmers were taking action to reduce N and P runoff. Released in 2015, the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy was developed by a group of researchers and other stakeholders. The document outlines goals for reducing nutrient loss from agricultural land, industry, and urban landscapes. In addition to setting these statewide reduction goals for reducing N and P loss to the Mississippi River, the strategy includes suggested best management practices.

The results of these interviews revealed farmers are concerned about nutrient loss, even if they are not aware of the particular details of the state plan. Of the 30 farmers interviewed, 14 indicated they were familiar with the Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy. Boerngen says it was encouraging to find out that 19 of the 30 said that they were concerned about nutrient loss and had taken steps to reduce the nutrient loss from their farms. These farmers also stated in interviews that their trusted sources of knowledge included researchers and retailers, suggesting that opportunities for researchers to communicate with farmers through field events can resonate with this group.

Click here to view the full article on CSA News Magazine.

Faces at DIFM: Hoselton Graduates from ISU

George Hoselton has been working with Data-Intensive Farm Management, under Dr. Maria Boerngen (Illinois State University), on his master’s thesis project since August of 2018. His research focused on understanding how farmers perceive nutrient loss.

Hoselton successfully defended his thesis, “Illinois Corn Farmers Concerns About Nutrient Loss and the Adoption of Best Management Practices” and graduated from Illinois State University with his Masters Degree this past weekend.

Congratulations, George! Thank you for the work you have contributed to DIFM!

DIFM in Farmdoc Series

DIFM was highlighted in an article on the University of Illinois Extension’s Farmdoc Daily website, written by Professors Jonathan Coppess and David Bullock. We’ve included the first paragraph, but follow the link above to learn more!

Nutrient loss in modern farming is a challenge that sits at the intersection of food production and the impacts of food production on natural resources (farmdoc daily, February 26, 2016; March 17, 2016).  Agricultural research represents an investment in solving such challenges through basic and applied research efforts, the results of which can be translated to farmers and industry through demonstration and outreach (farmdoc daily, August 23, 2018).  This article reviews USDA-funded agricultural research seeking to apply data, technology and a full range of science to the challenge of managing farm nutrients.

Undergraduate Research Experience

Benjamin Marks, DIFM Undergraduate Research Assistant, presented his poster entitled “The Farming Community’s Perspective on Nutrient Loss Reduction” at the annual Illinois State University Research Symposium on March 31.  Ben has been working on the DIFM project with Dr. Maria Boerngen, Assistant Professor of Agribusiness at ISU, for the past year.  He conducted a series of interviews with farmers from throughout McLean County, Illinois, to identify the agriculture community’s awareness of nutrient loss issues and the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy, the degree of concern farmers have about nutrient loss, how farmers obtain trusted information used in their management decisions, and what types of changes farmers have made in their practices in response to nutrient loss concerns.  This effort has provided farmers a unique opportunity to share their first-hand perspective on the issues the DIFM project is addressing.  Ben will be graduating with his bachelor’s degree in agribusiness in May 2017, and has accepted an industry position with Helena Chemical.  His DIFM involvement will continue, however, as he and Dr. Boerngen are currently writing a manuscript based on his work with the local farming community.