In August, ISAP members joined American Farmland Trust and Cargill, Inc. to host a Soil Health Field Day at Illinois Central College (ICC). The day-long event brought together over 75 farmers, retailers, local resource professionals, and conservation experts and featured the importance of soil health to a successful farming operation. A recent blog post by American Farmland Trust highlighted the educational and networking opportunities that were available to farmers at the event.
“To launch the event, Cargill representatives Anna Teeter and Clay Edwards outlined advances in soil health science including soil structure, chemistry and biology, cover crop selection, and planting and tilling practices. They also explained how farmers can access financial incentives to transition to more environmentally beneficial agricultural practices through emerging agricultural carbon markets that aim to reduce carbon emissions through the trade of carbon units sequestered in farmland.”
Field day participants then had the opportunity to view live soil health demos with ISAP experts, including three “practical sessions” featuring the benefits of cover crops and the functions of constructed wetlands on water quality.
Jill Kostel, senior engineer at The Wetlands Initiative (TWI), and Ryan Arch, executive director of Illinois Land Improvement Contractors Association (IL LICA), provided an overview of how “smart wetlands” can be designed to capture and treat field tile drainage runoff. This session featured the constructed wetland that was installed by TWI and IL LICA in 2019 on the ICC campus to treat the tile runoff from their agricultural fields.
“Jim Isermann, Soil Health Specialist for ISAP, and Jennifer Jones, Research Agronomist with the Illinois Soybean Association, discussed how cover crops and no-till agriculture can reduce soil loss and nutrient runoff. Using a Slake Test model and ISAP’s Rainfall Simulator, they demonstrated the importance of soil health on limiting soil erosion and improving water retention capacity.
Pete Fandel, a professor of agriculture at ICC, led a walkthrough of the college’s cover crop test plots, showcasing the environmental and economic benefits that cover crops can provide.”
Following the field sessions, ISAP coordinator Jean Brokish facilitated a panel discussion with three local farmers. Brad Zimmerman, Sean Jordal, and Brian Corkill shared their perspectives on soil health management and conservation cropping systems. “The farmers emphasized the importance of starting small, having a willingness to learn new things, and communicating soil health goals with landowners. They also shared their excitement about the future, commenting that farming for soil health has made farming more fun.”
To conclude the event, equipment demonstrations were provided by local retailers and equipment dealers including SeedOdomy, Yetter, and EarthSense. By connecting with local experts, the event planners hoped to provide connections and support to advance changes on the land.
To read the full blog post published by American Farmland Trust, or to learn more about their work to advance soil health across the Midwest, view their website at www.farmland.org