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Conservation Corner

2019 Conservation Cropping Seminars - Soil Health

Thu, October 04, 2018

2019 Illinois Seminars Scheduled

Two HOT speakers will discuss Soil Health solutions!

Using cover crops and improving soil health remain hot topics in 2018 and the trend is not fading. In fact, the go-getters have already seeded their cover crops. What’s stopping you? If you still need more information, start making plans now to attend a 2019 Conservation Cropping Seminar event. Upcoming events include two powerful speakers you do not want to miss. Soil sustainability author David Montgomery and Soil Health rock star Ray Archuletta will wow crowds with information and demonstrations. Three new events are planned for January 2019, offering access to valuable information for farmers ready to make important and profitable changes on their ground. These healthy soil power houses will surely have an impact on many Illinois farmers who are still sitting on the fence when it comes to cover crops. If you want proof, don’t miss this. It could be a game-changer.

Register to attend any seminar—January 22nd in Mendota, January 23rd in Springfield, or January 24th in O’Fallon, Illinois at

Two keynote speakers for the 2019 event are David Montgomery, author of “A Growing Revolution—Bringing Our Soil Back To Life and the energetic and inspirational retired NRCS agronomist and spokesman for USDA-NRCS’s Unlock the Secrets of the Soil campaign, Ray Archuletta. Montgomery combines ancient wisdom and modern science for a powerful look at agriculture changes we face today. Archuletta shares evidence, enthusiasm, and more as he tells the story of soil biology and the miracle below our feet. Each event will feature both Montgomery and Archuletta as well as research, and local farmer testimonials and discussions where you can ask the questions you need answers to.


Each seminar costs $20, payable by check or credit card, and it includes lunch. 2019 events start early and end before 4 pm, with time to meet and visit speakers, sponsors, or chat with others in an informal networking atmosphere. Illinois farmers are growing more interested in taking steps to increase conservation on their land. We still have a long way to go with making cover crops and healthy soil a top priority. And our water quality goals are another challenge, but I believe Illinois farmers are ready to step up.

January 22, 2019   –  Mendota Civic Center 1901 Tom Merwin Drive in Mendota, IL – Contact: Joe (815) 787-5480 (updated to correct location)

January 23, 2019   –  The Crowne Plaza – 3000 S. Dirksen Pkwy. in Springfield, IL – Contact: Marty (309) 738-7227

January 24, 2019   –  Regency Hotel – 400 Regency Park in O’Fallon, IL – Contact: Gary (618) 476-7230

These events offer producers an opportunity to gather facts and make decisions that fit their own operation. To learn more and to register, visit the Champaign County Soil and Water Conservation District website Local businesses and organizations can exhibit, serve as sponsors, and reach local and new clients. See website for details. Primary sponsors and organizers include Illinois Department of Agriculture, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, American Farmland Trust, the Illinois Stewardship Alliance, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, and local Soil and Water Conservation Districts.



Principles & Practices of Adaptive Grazing

Wed, September 12, 2018

The Pasture Project is sponsoring three free pasture walks. 

“Principles & Practices of Adaptive Grazing”

Free Presentations & Pasture Walks with Dr. Allen Williams

Three Event Dates: September 24, 25, & 27 - All Events 4:30-7:00PM CST

Co-Sponsored By:

Bond County Soil & Water Conservation District
Williamson County Soil & Water Conservation District
McLean County Soil & Water Conservation District
Fayette County Soil & Water Conservation District
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
Wallace Center
Illinois Forage & Grasslands Council
Illinois Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative


Three Event Locations: Creal Springs, IL (Sept 24), Mulberry, IL (Sept 25) &  Arrowsmith, IL (Sept 27)

Join soil and livestock expert Dr. Allen Williams for three farmer and rancher focused events on how to use adaptive livestock grazing to improve soil health, forage production and farm finances.

Organized by the Pasture Project and hosted by three different livestock operations, the events will features a short presentation on adaptive grazing principles and pasture walk to demonstrate how adaptive management principles can be successfully put into practice on a range of different farm operations and landscapes.

Tips on how to optimize economic and ecological benefits of adaptive management will be covered, as will how to troubleshoot common challenges faced during the transition to adaptive management.

While all events will cover the fundamentals of adaptive grazing, each pasture walk will focus on the unique livestock operation of the host farm. Beef cow, dairy cow, and sheep operations will be featured and the hosting farmers will join Dr. Williams to share how they have transitioned to adaptive management, including some of the challenges they’ve overcome.

Host farms include:

Sept, 24, 2018:  Jeff Beasley—Beasley Family Farm - Beef Cattle
                    (7336 Stonefort Road, Creal Springs, IL)

Sept, 25, 2018:  Ashley Snow Osborne & Tony Snow - Snow Dairy Farm - Dairy Cattle
                    (1468 N. 100 Street, Mulberry, IL)

Sept. 27, 2018:  Elton & Spring Mau - Circle M Farm - Sheep
                  (13086 E. 1300 N Road, Arrowsmith, IL)


Supper will be served during Dr. Williams’ presentation free of charge.

Registration deadline: September 21, 2018.  Register online:

Please contact Pasture Project at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) with questions or for more information.



Five Questions non Operator landowners should ask their Farmers about Soil Health

Wed, August 29, 2018

  A good article on Soil health for landowners to be aware of.  I wanted to share with you.  Keep in mind cover crops such as radishes, oats, turnips can be used to attract wildlife too.

More than half of all cropland in the United States is rented. This means the person who owns the land – a non-operator landowner – is often separate from the farmer making daily management decisions that have long-term impacts on the land.

If you are one of those landowners, you may not be thinking about your soil and how it is managed. Your soil is your most valuable asset, and building soil health is a capital improvement. It is an investment – in your land’s long-term productivity and resiliency.

How can non-operator landowners and tenant farmers work together to build land that’s healthy, resilient, and productive?

Barry Fisher, an Indiana farmer and nationally-recognized soil health specialist with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, recommends that non-operator landowners ask their farming partners these five questions.

1. Do you build organic matter in the soil?

Organic matter – carbon – may be the most important indicator of a farm’s productivity. The amount of soil organic matter often determines the price farmers will pay to rent or buy land.

“Finding a farmer who is interested in building organic matter by using practices like no-till and cover crops is like finding a bank with a better rate on a Certificate of Deposit,” Fisher says.

2. Do you test the soil at least once every four years?

Optimizing fertility and pH levels is important to your farm’s productivity. Regular soil testing can give an indication of trends in soil fertility, pH, and levels of organic matter in a field. These tests help determine the amount of fertilizer each field needs and potentially saves money for farmers on fields with adequate or high fertility.

New soil tests that indicate active carbon levels and populations of important soil biology are also available to help monitor soil health. If a field has a history of manure application and very high fertility, for instance, a farmer could potentially plant cover crops to keep those nutrients in place rather than applying more nutrients that may not be needed.

Healthy soil generally looks dark, crumbly, and porous, and is home to earthworms and other organisms. Fisher recommends soil tests at least every four years to learn about factors you can’t necessarily see, such as pH and fertility.

3. Do you use no-till practices?

Some landowners like the look of a clean-tilled field in the springtime. But that “nice look” can be very short lived.

“The reality is, a field that has bare soil is subject to erosion and loss of organic matter since it no longer has the protective cover from the crop residue on the surface,” Fisher says. “No-till farming utilizes the crop residue to blanket the soil surface and protect it from the forces of intense rainfall and summer heat. This protective blanket will conserve moisture for the crop and prevent loss of soil from wind or water erosion.”

4. Do you plant cover crops?

Cover crops provide a green, protective blanket through the winter months or fallow times.

“The green-growing cover is collecting solar energy, putting down roots and providing habitat when the soil would otherwise be lifeless and barren,” says Fisher. “This habitat provides food and shelter for a broad population of wildlife above ground and beneficial organisms below ground.”

Cover crops hold onto nutrients left from the previous crop and release them to the next crop. The solar rays these plants collect are powering photosynthesis, taking in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to produce food for organisms living in the root zone. Cover crops also build nutrient-rich organic matter in the soil and improve the soil’s ability to take in water.

Cover crops can be used to reduce soil erosion, improve nutrient cycling, build soil organic matter, and improve the soil’s ability to take in water.

5. What can we do together to improve soil health on my land?

According to Fisher, the duration of the lease agreement is perhaps the most critical matter in encouraging the adoption of soil health management practices.

“Farmers can actually build the production capacity and resiliency of their landowner’s soil, but it may take several years to realize the full benefits of doing so,” Fisher says. He suggests that landowners consider multi-year leases to provide tenure security for the tenant. Longer tenures give both landowners and tenants more opportunities to improve soil health and benefit from the resulting production and profitability gains.

“Improving soil health can provide long-term, stable dividends for you, your family, and your farming partner,” Fisher says. “Improving soil health also can decrease the effects of flooding, make food production more resilient to weather extremes, and improve the health of water and wildlife.”

Fisher encourages landowners to learn more about the basics and benefits of soil health management systems and begin the soil health discussion with their farming partners right away.

“Whether you own or rent your land, everyone has a great stake in improving the health of our soils,” he says.

Interested in cost sharing for Cover crops, no till, strip till, nutrient management under EQIP?  CSP is another option to implement cover crops, no till, and nutrient management on your farms.  Contact your local USDA NRCS field office for more information.



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