Goof Plot Demonstration Sites
Soil Health Specialists will establish cover crop demonstrations and “Goof Plots” at 12 sites, including 6 community college demo sites, to provide in-field learning for farmers and their retailers. Goof plots are side by side comparisons intended to show the visual results of common cover crop management mistakes – either due to factors beyond the farmer’s control (i.e. weather) or due to lack of knowledge. Soil health specialists commonly see improper termination, late seeding, inappropriate species selection, nitrogen management issues, and effects of residual herbicides. The purpose of the goof plots is to educate farmers and their advisors about what these issues look like in the field, and how to manage them. They will be shown side by side with successful implementation of a variety of cover crops.
The Illinois Sustainable Ag Partnership (ISAP) is providing coordination across these programs and with other partners in the state. Joint efforts include development of a website - www.ILSustainableAg.org, a coordinated event calendar, consistent messaging, shared resources, educational materials, outreach guides and agendas, a network of Soil Health Specialists, training programs, a network of demonstration farm sites, templates for social surveys, landowner training, the Conservation Story Map – www.conservationstorymap.com for sharing farmer success stories, and connecting programs through the Precision Conservation Management farmer engagement platform. Online and printed materials will provide technical advice for farmers, retailers, and advisors. An online forum will be developed to facilitate questions, discussions and shared learning experience. Shared resources, such as the mobile rainfall simulator, soil demonstration kits, and portable nitrate sensor will be used for hands-on learning. Efforts will focus on translating information and designing programs to reach the middle adopters. Partners include American Farmland Trust, Illinois Central College, Illinois Corn, Precision Conservation Management, Soil Health Partnership, The Nature Conservancy, The Wetlands Initiative, and The Zea Mays Foundation. The ISAP group is also collaborating with many other partners more informally through quarterly Alphabet Soup meetings.