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Upper Macoupin Creek Watershed Partnership

Improve soil health and water quality on your farm!


Did you attend our Nutrient Management workshop on August 18, 2021? This AFT & UMC workshop focused on managing fertility in reduced tillage systems. Featured presenters were Dr. Tony Vyn from Purdue University and Dan Schaefer from Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association. Click below to watch a virtual recording!



How Can Farmers Improve Soil Health and Water Quality?

The adoption of a well-managed conservation cropping system leads to improvements in water quality and soil health. If you farm in Macoupin County, Illinois and/or have farmland in the Upper Macoupin Creek watershed, there are many technical and financial resources available to help you reduce tillage, increase nutrient efficiency, and implement cover crops.

American Farmland Trust is working with local stakeholders through the Upper Macoupin Creek Watershed Partnership and can help you identify conservation practices to achieve your soil health and water quality goals.

If you would like to learn more about which conservation practices will improve your farm’s future – click here to complete our short survey!
Calculate the economic benefits of your proposed soil health practices before they even hit the ground! Email and ask Sarah Blount how you can estimate your changes in net income by implementing practices like reduced tillage, cover crops and nutrient management.


How Can Farmers Get Involved and What Are the Benefits?

Farmers in the watershed are encouraged to get involved by adopting conservation practices that improve soil health and economic returns. Financial assistance is available for farmers interested in reducing tillage, increasing the efficient use of nutrients, and adopting cover crops. It pays to be proactive! Through individual action, farmers in the watershed can collectively help improve water quality while maintaining or improving farm profitability.

The adoption of a well-managed conservation cropping system leads to improvements in a farmer’s bottom line by contributing to:

Resources for the Upper Macoupin Creek Watershed

The producers, ag professionals, area residents, government and non-profit agencies that comprise the UMC Partnership are working to increase the health of our local soils and streams. Planting cover crops, reducing tillage, and reducing phosphorus loss from fields are some of the most efficient management options for increasing soil health while decreasing nutrient and soil loss from fields. Download the below resources so you can maximize on-farm benefits for your operation!

Given that the Macoupin River Basin is a high priority for phosphorus reductions, AFT and our local partners decided to tackle the water quality challenges in the upper reaches of the basin, the Upper Macoupin Creek Watershed.


The Upper Macoupin Creek (UMC) watershed is a subwatershed of the Macoupin Creek Basin located in Macoupin County, Illinois. The UMC project area covers 137,694-acres, about half of the Macoupin Creek Basin. AFT leads this initiative with over 15 federal, state, and local government partners, agricultural trade associations, environmental groups, agricultural retailers, and a local university working to reduce phosphorus losses, improve farm productivity, provide education and outreach, and improve water quality in the creek.

The UMC partnership includes a 17-member steering committee comprised of eight farmers, two representatives of M&M Service Company, two representatives from CHS Shipman, two representatives from the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service office in Macoupin County, one representative from the Macoupin County Soil and Water Conservation District, one representative from the Illinois Stewardship Alliance, and one representative from AFT.

To date, the Upper Macoupin Creek Watershed has accomplished:

  • 54 Farm Contracts (CSP, EQIP, MRBI)
  • 79 Self-Assessments for Current Conservation Practices (STAR forms in Champaign County, IL)
  • 1.7M in funding towards conservation practices, soil health, & water quality



Upper Macoupin Creek Watershed Project Goals

The Steering Committee has adopted seven specific goals that aim to achieve social, economic, and environmental outcomes by 2022:

  1. Improve awareness and understanding of the water quality issues in the UMC, the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy, and the benefits of improved soil health and nutrient management
  2. Increase conservation activity in the watershed by 40 percent
  3. Improve farmer profitability
  4. Reduce ephemeral gully erosion by 50 percent
  5. No application of commercial fertilizer or manure on snow-covered or frozen ground
  6. All livestock manure will be effectively stored with no potential runoff
  7. Achieve a 25 percent reduction in total Phosphorus loads and a 15 percent reduction in Nitrate-N loads

Saving Tomorrow's Agriculture Resources

Learn More About STAR!

The goal of STAR is to encourage the continued adoption of conservation practices and recognize farmers for their commitment to sustainability.

Saving Tomorrow’s Agriculture Resources, or STAR, is an exciting initiative developed by farmers and soil and water conservation professionals that offers farm operators and landowners a simple, free, and confidential tool to evaluate their conservation land management practices. From improved nutrient management to cover crops to edge of field water treatment and even crop rotation or inclusion of livestock, a suite of practices will result in a rating of between one and five stars. To date, over 79 farmer’s in Champaign County, Illinois have benefited from STAR.

Need more information? Connect with one of our AFT staff who is leading this partnership!