Bring ISAP’s Rainfall Simulator to Your Next Field Day!

Bring ISAP’s Rainfall Simulator to Your Next Field Day!


By: Pete Fandel | Professor, Agriculture | Illinois Central College

Spring time is here again! The days are growing longer, flowers are beginning to bloom, and planning for summer field days is in full swing. Don’t miss your chance to make a splash at your upcoming event with ISAP’s Rainfall Simulator!

ISAP’s Rainfall Simulator is the perfect tool to bring to your next field day, county fair, farmers market, festival, or other community event.  Nothing makes a summer event successful like the unique combination of highly visual and interactive Illinois-centric demonstrations of the ISAP Rainfall Simulator.

ISAP Soil Health Specialist Jim Isermann presents Rainfall Simulator demonstration.

It can be challenging to effectively show the impact of best management practices in real-time, especially for farmers or members of the public who haven’t visited fields with no-till or cover crops in place. The best way t0 really understand how in-field management practices can benefit water quality, soil health, and nutrient loss is to observe them in action.

The Illinois Sustainable Ag Partnership’s Rainfall Simulator can make these observations much easier! The Rainfall Simulator is a portable, educational tool that demonstrates how an intense rainfall event interacts with soil under five different field scenarios. The field scenarios serve as models for various in-field management practices, so viewers can easily see the differences in water retention and soil erosion between fields that are heavily tilled versus fields with a living cover.

The entire system is contained within a towable trailer, complete with a water tank and equipment to run the simulation without electric hook ups, making the Rainfall Simulator the perfect tool to highlight conservation practices during your next in-person event.

The Rainfall Simulator applies an equal amount of water across each tray, so viewers can see in real-time how differently each soil trays reacts to a simulated rainfall. Each soil tray is filled with 2.5-inch-deep slabs of soil pulled (as undisturbed as possible) from an actual field which is a sufficient depth to show the interaction of rainfall at the soil surface level.

Rainfall Simulator compares soil erosion and water retention of five different field scenarios.

At the end of the simulation, the results are clear. Soil trays from fields with cover crops and no-till have much less water runoff compared to soil trays from conventional fields. And the water that does leave these trays is also much cleaner. In the real world, this means no-till fields with cover crops are losing fewer soil particles and valuable nutrients during rain events, keeping our waterways free from sediment and high nutrient loads.

To request the Rainfall Simulator for your next event, submit a request online and an ISAP staff member will reach out to coordinate details. The Rainfall Simulator is available now, so reserve today!

Pete Fandel

Pete Fandel is a Professor of Agriculture at Illinois Central College. He also serves as a Cover Crop Specialist with the Illinois Council on Best Management Practices.