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Conservation

Grant funds study of free-living nitrogen fixers in organic systems

URBANA, Ill. – Organic farmers often struggle to meet the nitrogen demands of corn and other crops. Unlike conventional farmers, with their easy access to inexpensive inorganic nitrogen fertilizers, fewer commercial options are available for organic growers.

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Study reconstructs 232-year history of prairie fire in Midwestern US

URBANA, Ill. -- Researchers combed through thousands of historical documents for first-person accounts of fires occurring between 1673 and 1905 in the Midwestern tallgrass prairie. Their study is the first systematic analysis of the timing, causes and consequences of prairie fires in this part of the world. They report their findings in Natural Areas Journal.

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Anglers need tailored messaging to inspire action on invasive species

URBANA, Ill. – Once aquatic invasive species establish, they typically refuse to budge. That’s why it’s critical to prevent invasive quagga mussels, Eurasian watermilfoil, and other bad actors from getting established in the first place.

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Team discovers invasive-native crayfish hybrids in Missouri

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — In a study of crayfish in the Current River in southeastern Missouri, researchers discovered – almost by chance – that the virile crayfish, Faxonius virilis, was interbreeding with a native crayfish, potentially altering the native’s genetics, life history and ecology. Reported in the journal Aquatic Invasions, the study highlights the difficulty of detecting some of the consequences of biological invasions, the researchers say.

Read more from the Illinois News Bureau.

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USDA funds ‘agrivoltaics’ project led by iSEE team

Urbana, Ill. – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced funding for a new project led by iSEE Interim Director Madhu Khanna, Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics, to optimize design for “agrivoltaic” systems – fields with both crops and solar panels – that will maintain crop production, produce renewable energy, and increase farm profitability.

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Water service fees can help pay for ecosystem preservation in Mexico

URBANA, Ill – The world’s ecosystems quietly keep human beings alive, and we largely do not notice their impacts until they are gone. Take forests, for example, whose services are valued at $4.7 trillion each year. Trees capture and filter water running through the landscape, which maintains aquatic habitat and improves water supplies for drinking and recreation.

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U of I Part of Midwest Climate Center

URBANA, Ill. -- Last week, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) finalized an agreement with the University of Minnesota and seven partner organizations — including the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign — to form a new Climate Adaptation Science Center (CASC). The center will advance scientific research and education in response to climate change impacts in the Midwest.

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Crayfish get more interesting at bigger parties, study suggests

URBANA, Ill. – In many North American lakes, a tiny clawed creature has become a big bully. The invasive rusty crayfish roams lakebeds, snapping up snails, bivalves, and water plants, cutting off food supplies for native crayfish and other animals. And when they’re feeling saucy, some mount daring raids on fish eggs, reducing sport-fish populations.

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Advanced model and field data add up to better cover crop management

URBANA, Ill. – Cover crops are widely seen as one of the most promising conservation practices, improving soil health while also removing carbon from the atmosphere. But while the number of Midwestern farmers planting cover crops has increased markedly in recent years, 2017 USDA Census data show only about 5% have adopted the conservation practice. The reluctance of the other 95% may be due, in part, to a perception that cover crops require more effort and may also negatively affect summer cash crop yield.

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Comparing the pathogen numbers in backyard and commercial composts

Compost—organic material that is added to soil to help plants grow—is widely used by gardeners because it improves soil health and reduces the amount of organic waste in landfills. Although several studies have looked at commercial composts, very few have investigated backyard compost samples. In a new study, researchers have measured the number of pathogens in both types of compost.

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