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Cover crops promoted at field day

Farmers gather in Jim Ifft's shed last week near Fairbury for a cover crop meeting / CIFN photo.

FAIRBURY – Growers in the state are trying to reduce the amount of nitrates entering rivers and one solution involves planting cover crops.

The Vermilion Headwaters Watershed project hosted a field day near Fairbury last week with stops at the Ifft and Slagel farms south of town. Jim Ifft plants cover crops and has his own field trials along with his son, Josh.

“He does have a plot out there with different mixes just to show what possibilities there are for cover crops,” explained Becky Taylor, resource conservationist with the Livingston County Soil and Water Conservation District.

A few miles down the road, the Slagel operation incorporates strip tillage into a cover crop rotation. This provided visitors a chance to see how the two conservation practices work together.

“The Vermilion River is considered one of the high priority watersheds for nitrate loading in the state, so we are focusing on the headwaters which is a 250,000-acre project in Livingston and Ford counties,” Taylor added.

Taylor admits the group is looking to revisit its goals to make sure they are still attainable. One of the current goals is to encourage producers to plant more cover crops and to educate them on why the practice is important.

Partners of the Vermilion Headwaters Watershed project include: USDA-NRCS, American Farmland Trust, Soil Health Partnership, Wetland Initiative, Livingston County Farm Bureau and the Livingston and Ford County Soil and Water Conservation Districts.

Last week’s field day also included lunch and a presentation from University of Illinois agricultural economist Gary Schnitkey. More on the Vermilion Headwaters Watershed can be obtained by contacting the Livingston County Soil and Water Conservation District office in Pontiac at 815-844-6127, extension 3.

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