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A multi-year project examining ways to curb nutrient runoff from Illinois farm fields shows the use of cover crops on a widespread basis can have an impact. Catherine O'Reilly with Illinois State University's Department of Geography, Geology and the Environment serves on the research team and sums up some of the results;

O'Reilly's research group works with farmers in two watersheds. They had cover crop seed dropped by the air into central Illinois corn and soybean fields in late August and early September. The cover crop seed germinates and soaks up excess nutrients on farmland - and more;

O'Reilly says the large-scale cover-cropping research funded by a checkoff on fertilizer shows promise. The next step is to conduct an economic analysis to see if benefits outweigh the added costs for farmers.