The Big Pine Watershed in Western Indiana has a three year plan to improve water quality. The Big Pine Creek Headwaters are located in White County and Benton County, Indiana. Tributaries of the Big Pine Creek in the watershed that folks may be familiar with are Big Pine Gamebird Habitat, Mud Pine Creek, Spring Branch, Honey Branch, Gorgeous Gorges, and the Scenic Fall Creek. Big Pine Creek Watershed includes waters in White, Tippecanoe, Benton, and Warren Counties and feeds into the Wabash River at Attica in Fountain County.
Big Pine Creek Watershed is part of Middle Wabash-Little Vermillion Watershed and is also part of the Lower Wabash Watershed. These Watersheds are part of the Wabash River Watershed which is part of the Ohio Indiana Watershed which is a part of the Mississippi Watershed. Essentially what this means is that Big Pine Creek Watershed is a part of the Mississippi Watershed which feeds into the Gulf. Runoff from the lands and our smallest ditches and tributaries are the beginning of what flows downstream.
Land O’Lakes, Inc., Winfield United, Ceres Solutions, the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC), and The Nature Conservancy, among others, have teamed up to develop a Big Pine Watershed management plan which lays out water quality goals and how to reach them over the next three years. One of the primary goals is to reduce the amount of phosphorus and sediment that flow into the watershed by more than 50 percent. “It has been identified as one of the impaired watersheds in Indiana, which can mean a lot of different things,” says Betsy Bower, an agronomist with Ceres Solutions. “Certainly it’s what’s in the water, but how it gets there if it’s all farming applications or all farming operations or if it’s in impaired cites.” Bower said the groups received approval of grant funding last September, “At the time that we put the proposal in though, we were only looking at two different practices and what we’re trying to do is leverage our expertise against some of the EQIP funding, so we work with farmers one-on-one to encourage them to use some of the NRCS funding for nutrient management and cover crops.”
Bower said this is a unique project in Indiana, “There are a lot of conservation entities in Indiana that are excited about this. It’s unique that ag retail is involved, as well as the distribution chain of ag retail products in the form of Winfield United and Land O’Lakes. The Nature Conservancy and the CTIC are likely involved in other projects, but it’s the first time that an ag retailer has been involved.”
This past summer, Ceres Solutions agronomists and others on the project helped farmers implement nutrient management plans as well as demonstrated and educated them on practices that reduce soil erosion. For instance, farmers can use reduced or no-till systems, which allows them to grow crops without disturbing the soil. They can also plant cover crops on their land to protect the soil between growing seasons. Together, these approaches can help prevent nutrients and sediment from leaving the field where they can contaminate streams and rivers.
Not surprisingly, when improvement at Big Pine was first discussed, Ceres Solutions quickly saw the value they could bring to the project. “We took action on this issue because we saw this as an opportunity to help our customers—farmers—implement conservation practices to improve water quality outcomes for Big Pine Creek,” says Tom Stein, location manager for Ceres Solutions in Templeton, Indiana. Ceres Solutions, a Land O’Lakes member ag cooperative, has a strong area presence and experience serving customers in the watershed area. The cooperative’s connection to Winfield United offers some of the best crop production expertise in the industry.