ISAP Publishes “Introduction to Soil Health Practices” for Illinois Farmers

Bloomington, Ill. –The Illinois Sustainable Ag Partnership has published a new resource for Illinois farmers and farm advisors which clearly communicates the role of soil health practices in addressing agronomic challenges and resource concerns. ISAP’s Introduction to Soil Health Practices” identifies and explains the cause of several conditions that often lead to common resource or agronomic concerns for farmers, including erosion, compaction, weed pressure, and nutrient loss. The 30-page guidebook highlights practical benefits that can be achieved through the adoption of conservation practices, focusing on practices that have potential for statewide application. 

“ISAP developed this guidebook to provide a comprehensive, introductory resource for Illinois farmers who are experiencing agronomic and resource challenges in their fields and looking for solutions that will improve their crop health, field productivity, and overall resiliency of their farming system,” shared Torey Colburn, conservation agronomist with American Farmland Trust and co-author of the new ISAP resource. 

The publication provides technical information based on scientific research that is specific to Illinois weather, soils, and farming conditions. Torey Colburn and Frank Rademacher, Champaign County farmer and conservation agronomist with The Nature Conservancy, served as co-authors on the project and developed the guidebook’s content under the review and guidance of ISAP’s Science Advisory Committee, a Research Review committee made up of scientific researchers from various institutions in Illinois, and a Farmer Review committee with farmer representation from across the state. 

“This guidebook contains practical information for Illinois farmers and farm advisors alike who have questions about how conservation practices like cover crops and reduced tillage can work for them on their farm,” shared Lowell Gentry, a retired researcher at the University of Illinois and member of the ISAP Science Advisory committee. “The techniques offered in this document aim to improve soil health, enhance crop productivity, and reduce nutrient loss. Conserving and building soil organic matter may be the most important factor to ensure sustainable crop production.” 

In addition to technical information and scientific research, ISAP’s Introduction to Soil Health Practices” also features the stories of six Illinois farmers, sharing their personal experiences of finding success through adopting soil health practices on their farms. These real-world examples demonstrate the applicability and relevance of the technical information while providing opportunities for peer-to-peer learning among farmers. 

Tony Stierwalt prepares his planter before “planting green” into standing cereal rye.

“I hope my story encourages other farmers to give conservation practices a try and witness benefits similar to those I’ve seen over the past 15 years of farming,” shares Tony Stierwalt, a Champaign County farmer who is featured in the guidebook. “Nothing that I’m doing by any stretch is groundbreaking. Anyone can do what I do.”

Development of ISAP’s “Introduction to Soil Health Practices” was funded in part by the Illinois Soybean Association. “At Illinois Soy, we’re proud to have supported the creation of this guidebook and remain committed to providing  Illinois farmers with valuable resources to support their implementation of conservation cropping systems,” says Megan Miller, agronomy programs manager with the Illinois Soybean Association and ISAP board member.

ISAP’s “Introduction to Soil Health Practices” and complete stories of each farmer included in the guidebook can be accessed online at and printed copies can be requested by emailing 



As a coordinated and consistent group, Illinois Sustainable Ag Partnership (ISAP) focuses on messaging, outreach, training and education for farmers and their trusted advisers to bring together and disseminate new information and lessons learned in plain, practical language. Members work collaboratively to amplify the programs of each organization, share resources to gain efficiencies and identify synergies in achieving soil health and nutrient goals. ISAP’s mission is to create a network to support a systems approach on agriculture lands to improve soil health and reduce nutrient loss. 

ISAP’s members include: 

Agriculture Drainage Management Coalition, American Farmland Trust, Association of Illinois Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Illinois Central College, Illinois Certified Crop Advisers, Illinois Corn, Illinois Land Improvement Contractors Association, Illinois Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, Illinois Soybean Association, Midwest Dairy, Precision Conservation Management, University of Illinois Extension, and  

The Nature Conservancy, The Wetlands Initiative, The Zea Mays Foundation.

ISAP Coordinator