We believe that by replenishing life in the soil, farmers can improve the profitability of their operations while reducing their environmental footprint. In Illinois, we act on this belief by working with farmers, landowners, agricultural and conservation agencies, and organizations to help farmers adopt conservation cropping systems to restore our soil. We believe that all farms – big or small – can do better by the soil.
Conservation Cropping Systems
A conservation cropping system, or CCS, is a suite of practices that work synergistically to replenish soil life and restore the organic matter to agricultural soils. Over time these improvements increase nutrient efficiency and crop yields, reduce sediment and nutrient losses, and make farms more resilient to extreme weather conditions. The practices are tailored specifically to individual farms, based on operations, equipment, crops raised, and the position of the farm in the landscape – soil type, slope, proximity to water.
There are many different types of practices to choose from, but every CCS includes practices to do the following:
Reduce soil disturbance
Keep a living root in the system for as long as possible
Diversify crop rotations and
Keep the soil covered with living or dead (mulch) vegetation at all times
The Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy estimates that additional conservation practices are needed on over half of the 27 million acres of farmland in Illinois to meet our water quality goals. If you are an Illinois farmer or landowner who is interested in implementing cover crops, you can start your journey by reading about CCS in four common Illinois farming systems (link to CCS) and seeking out more detailed information from your local NRCS or SWCD office.