Soil Health Field Day Focuses on Healthy Illinois Farm Fields
In August, Illinois farmers learned eco-friendly ways to improve soil health at an Illinois Soil Health Field Day presented by American Farmland Trust, Cargill, Inc., the Illinois Sustainable Ag Partnership (ISAP), and Illinois Central College (ICC). Open to area farmers, retailers, and other agricultural professionals, the field day focused on the benefits of reducing tillage, utilizing cover crops, and managing soil ecology to decrease nutrient loss, limit erosion, and improve overall soil health in Illinois farm fields.
To launch the event, Cargill representatives Anna Teeter and Clay Edwards outlined advances in soil health science including soil structure, chemistry and biology, cover crop selection, and planting and tilling practices. They also explained how farmers can access financial incentives to transition to more environmentally beneficial agricultural practices through emerging agricultural carbon markets that aim to reduce carbon emissions through the trade of carbon units sequestered in farmland.
Jim Isermann from ISAP, and Jennifer Jones from the Illinois Soybean Association discussed how cover crops and no-till agriculture can reduce soil loss and nutrient runoff. Using a Slake Test model and ISAP’s Rainfall Simulator, they demonstrated the effectiveness of cover crops and no-till practices.
Jill Kostel, senior engineer at The Wetlands Initiative, provided an overview of how “smart wetlands” can be designed to capture and treat field tile drainage runoff.
Pete Fandel, a professor at ICC, lead a walkthrough of the college’s cover crop test plot, showcasing the environmental and economic benefits that cover crops can provide.
Farmer Discussion Panel
The day concluded with a discussion panel of area farmers who are actively involved in healthy soil management practices, including:
- Brad Zimmerman, a corn and soybean farmer from Tazwell County, whose family farm has been practicing no-till since the 1990s
- Sean Jordal of Hudson, Illinois, who operates the Swope Family Farm, a century-old farm that has utilized regenerative cropping practices for over a decade
- Brian Corkill, a sixth-generation farmer who raises corn and soybeans in Henry and Stark counties, who utilizes cover crops, no-till and strip-till practices, and nutrient and herbicide management to maintain and improve Illinois soil health.
The panelists emphasized the importance of starting small, having a willingness to learn new things, and communicating soil health goals with landowners. They also shared their excitement about the future, commenting that farming for soil health has made farming more fun.
At the conclusion of the event, demonstrations were provided by vendors Earthsense, who showcased a prototype robot with the capability of remotely seeding fields with cover crops; and SeedOnomy, who demonstrated drone technology capable of performing numerous farm field functions.
In addition to AFT and Cargill, the following companies and organizations participated in this successful event: AGuru Machinery, Bottom Line Solutions, Bio Till Cover Crops, D & M Precision Ag, EarthSense, Illinois Central College, Illinois Land Improvement Contractors Association, Illinois Soybean Association, Illinois Sustainable Ag Partnership, Midwestern BioAg, Precision Conservation Management, ProHarvest Seeds, SeedOnomy, University of Illinois Extension, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and The Wetlands Initiative.
This event was made possible by funding provided by Cargill RegenConnect, which has funded the Ag Conservation Innovations Initiative in coordinating numerous field days and workshops, as well as producing a series of soil health videos.
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