The Vermilion Headwaters Watershed is a 305,426-acre rural watershed encompassing parts of Livingston, Ford, Iroquois, and McLean Counties in Illinois. This watershed has been identified as one of the top five non-point source nitrogen loading watersheds in Illinois and is a major contributor to nitrogen loading in the Mississippi River.
The Vermilion Headwaters Watershed is a partnership of stakeholders, including farmers, community leaders, government agencies, research institutions and non-profit organizations, working to reduce the loss of nitrogen from farmland in the watershed. Farmers adopting conservation cropping systems, which include practices such as reduced tillage, cover crops, nutrient management and tile water treatment, can help protect water quality and improve a farmer’s bottom line.
The Partnership is capitalizing on the energy of the successful Indian Creek sub-watershed project to facilitate a new locally driven watershed project to reduce losses of nitrogen to the Vermilion and Illinois River. The Partnership uses conservation planning models to inform goals and implements strategies that will achieve nutrient reductions at the field and watershed scale.
- The Partnership hosts quarterly community meetings to increase awareness of Illinois’s Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy and promote the adoption of in-field and edge-of-field practices that reduce nitrogen loss.
- Farmers are joining together to ask questions, share insights, and achieve conservation goals.
- To achieve water quality goals, the Partnership estimates an additional 80,000 acres of conservation cropping systems are needed. Farmers are encouraged to contact the Partnership to get started.
The farmers, government, non-profit agencies, agriculture professionals, and area residents that comprise the Partnership are working to further increase the efficiency of nitrogen management in Ford and Livingston Counties in Illinois. As part of this effort, we are working with our partners to use conservation planning models to inform the development of new watershed goals that outline a clear path toward achieving nutrient reductions at the field and watershed scale. Modeling efforts have been completed for two priority sub-watersheds and we are drafting a voluntary stream monitoring plan that will allow area residents to generate baseline water quality data.
Since 2015, more than $1.7M has been invested in conservation practices in the watershed as an extension of our partnership with the Livingston and Ford County Soil and Water Conservation Districts and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. We strive to provide farmers with the technical and financial assistance necessary to improve environmental performance without sacrificing productivity and acknowledge that reduced tillage is an important first step in a conservation cropping system that successfully utilizes cover crops.
Our outreach efforts have highlighted the importance of nutrient management, cover crops, and reduced tillage practices for cost-share assistance.