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Field Tour Gives Illinois Farmers Up-Close Look at Cover Crop, Conservation Tillage and Nutrient Management Benefits

 

A group of about 75 farmers, other ag professionals and college students faced a brisk November morning to explore the demonstration fields of Lincoln Land Community College. Educators from the school in Springfield, Ill. walked the group through strips of various cover crops that grow in Illinois, and also showed them other progressive agricultural practices that improve soil health and protect water quality.

 

The college served as the first stop in a Cover Crop, Soil Health and Water Quality Field Tour, held on November 6. The Soil Health Partnership and Illinois Council on Best Management Practices sponsored the event.

 

At the college, the group learned about cover crops like radish, rapeseed, crimson clover and cereal rye, viewing them side-by-side in the field.

 

“Crimson clover is not only good for fixing nitrogen, it’s also good for the honey bees, something else extremely important today,” Bill Harmon, agronomy professor at LLCC, explained to the attendees.

 

Participants also viewed a bioreactor on the site, which can help reduce nitrates leaving the farm through water. It is essentially a ditch filled with wood chips, which serve as food for microbes to break down nitrates and prevent them from entering surface water.

 

Two Soil Health Partnership farmers in the Springfield area also hosted the group on their farms to share their successes and challenges with different SHP agricultural practices.

 

Tim Seifert dug a soil pit to enable farmers to get into the ground and see the layers of soil at work. In addition to cover crops, he practices a targeted nutrient management plan under the SHP. He split-applies nitrogen on a year-round schedule, to feed the growing crop exactly what it needs throughout the growing season and protect against any losses.

 

Dave Moose has been practicing no-till with his father on their farm since 1979. His father was an innovator, and he passed that spirit on to Dave.

 

“As a steward of this land, I will try almost anything to protect it. I’m a bit of a daredevil,” Moose said. “I don’t call myself an environmentalist, but everything I do is with the health of my land in mind.”

 

Moose grows cereal rye on his farm, a process that he readily admits has been trial-and-error. But Nick Goeser, SHP director, pointed out how the farm had as much rain as the rest of the area, but was not at all muddy like some of the other sites the group visited that day. Rather, it was spongy.

 

“No-till and cover crops help with soil infiltration and retention to keep moisture in ground, where it belongs,” Goeser said. “The lack of soil sticking to our boots is very telling.”

 

Additional field days and other events are planned throughout the year. For a schedule, visit www.soilhealthpartnership.org.

 

About the Soil Health Partnership

The Soil Health Partnership brings together diverse partner organizations including commodity groups, federal agencies, universities and environmental groups to work toward the common goal of improving soil health. Over a five-year period, the SHP will identify, test and measure farm management practices that improve soil health and benefit farmers. We believe the results of this farmer-led project will provide a platform for sharing peer-to-peer information, and lend resources to benefit agricultural sustainability and profitability. An initiative of the National Corn Growers Association, we provide the spark for greater understanding and implementation of agricultural best practices to protect resources for future generations. Visit the website for more.

“Crimson clover is not only good for fixing nitrogen, it’s also good for the honey bees, something else extremely important today,” Bill Harmon

“I don’t call myself an environmentalist, but everything I do is with the health of my land in mind.” Dave Moose

“The lack of soil sticking to our boots is very telling.” Nick Goeser

 

 

SOIL HEALTH PARTNERSHIP | ALL RIGHTS RESERVED © 2016

SOIL HEALTH PARTNERSHIP | ALL RIGHTS RESERVED © 2016