ISAP Hosts Myth-Busting Risk Management Webinar Series

Throughout the month of June, the Illinois Sustainable Ag Partnership (ISAP) brought together experts on cover crops, tile drainage, and economics to tackle common myths in conservation cropping systems. The series was well attended with over 120 individual attendees representing 17 states/provinces across North America. Farmers, ag advisers, Extension staff, and non-profit conservation advocates had the opportunity to learn how, in a well-managed system, cover crops and tile drainage can be incorporated into successful, sustainable, and profitable farms.

In the first session, Jerry Hatfield (Retired Laboratory Director with USDA- ARS), Kirk Kimble (Marshall County Farmer), and Frank Rademacher (PCM Conservation Specialist) busted the myth that “Cover Crops Are Just Another Input” by exploring the agronomic benefits of taking a systems approach to improving soil health.  Jerry Hatfield presented an overview of soil health systems and emphasized the many benefits biologically active soils provide in a productive farming operation.

Kirk Kimble shares how cereal rye and radishes have been incorporated into his farming operation.


Kirk Kimble and Frank Rademacher shared their perspectives as farmers who have successfully incorporated cover crops into their soil health systems. “Adding cover crops is not just another input,” shared Frank Rademacher. “We’ve made multiple changes to use cover crops properly and we’ve gotten a lot of benefits including late season weed control, nitrogen production, and pest management.”

For most farmers, the bottom line comes first. Farmers aren’t just stewarding the land and growing crops to support our agricultural industry; they are trying to run a profitable business. Proponents of conservation agriculture need to be prepared to effectively communicate how to value the long-term improvements a soil health system provides.

“Conservation costs too much? I don’t agree with that,” shared Ryan Batts, farmer, ag econ specialist at the University of Illinois Extension, and keynote speaker of the second session of ISAP’s Risk Management Webinar Series. Batts grows corn and soybeans on his family farm in Indiana; his farm has been no-till since the 1990’s and first introduced cover crops in the early 2000’s. He was a hard sell at first, but once he saw the effect these practices had on his soil erosion and productivity, he’s been a strong advocate ever since.

Batts, along with Paul Dietmann (Compeer Financial) and Dallas Glazik (Pheasants Forever), discussed strategies and tools they use to demonstrate that “Conservation Costs Too Much” is just a myth. The speakers each shared their experiences supporting farmers as they transition away from conventional systems while retaining their profitability and building resiliency in their operations.

Dallas Glazik (Pheasants Forever) demonstrates Pheasant Forever’s Precision Ag Assessment Tool, designed to identify lowest yielding spots in a field that may be more suitable for conservation practices.

For the third and final session of the Risk Management Webinar Series, ISAP rooted out the myth that “Tile and Conservation Don’t Mix.” Nearly 40% of Illinois cropland utilizes tile drainage to provide water management and limit flooding, but tile systems and conservation agriculture are often portrayed as incompatible

“Are we starting to show that cover crops and the tile can work together? Absolutely,” answers Jeff O’Connor, Kankakee County farmer and Illinois Soybean Association Director at Large. O’Connor suggests that the conversation should shift away from disproving that cover crops cause problems when combined with tile drainage and should instead focus on the benefits of combining tile and conservation practices.

O’Connor has witnessed benefits such as more trafficable days in the field and higher productivity by effectively managing conservation practices and his tile system. O’Connor, along with tile drainage experts, Ehsan Ghane (Michigan State University) and Isaac Ferrie (CropTech Consulting), explained how tile systems can be designed to mitigate the risk of nutrient loss often associated with drainage, while also providing a foundation for soil health systems to thrive.

For those who missed any of the myth busting sessions, all three recordings can be found on ISAP’s YouTube channel. ISAP has posted informational resources and will continue to support the adoption of conservation practices that support soil health and water quality through educational events and networking opportunities. To stay connected with ISAP’s work, sign up for our monthly newsletter, follow us on Facebook, or send us a message at

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ISAP Coordinator