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Field day focuses on cover crops


Farmers gather in Jim Ifft's shed south of Fairbury last week / CIFN photo.

FAIRBURY – Several local farmers gathered at Jim Ifft’s farm in Livingston County last week to learn about the benefits of cover crops and receive an update on the Vermilion Headwaters Watershed.


Jim Isermann, with the Illinois Sustainable Ag Partnership and Illinois Corn Growers Precision Conservation Management, was among the speakers at the meeting.


Isermann detailed what growers should look for this spring and how to successfully manage cover crops.


“There are all kinds of benefits we see from cover crops,” Isermann explained.


With this watershed in particular, the idea is to protect the water supply, control erosion and control nitrates.


“Cover crops are a tremendous benefit when we try to see those environmental practices so a lot of the growers are coming together to make sure we can achieve those environmental goals.”


Producers within the Vermilion Headwaters Watershed have increased cover crop adoption and are ramping-up the use of different environmental practices.


“Farmers really need to start to understand the management implications of doing these practices so it is up and going and we are making progress,” observed Isermann.


Growers can sign up for a five-year transition program through Illinois Corn. This is for those fairly new to cover crops wanting additional assistance to adopt these practices. A side-by-side comparison is done to see the differences from a conventional tillage system.


“It’s research but it’s also outreach and working closely with growers to be successful.”


More than 50 fields were seeded into a cover crop comparison last fall within the program. Isermann is excited for the information to come out of the comparison trial. The potential to reduce input costs was a factor that drove Ifft toward the use of cover crops.


Ifft tries to do covers on 100 percent of his acres when the weather allows. He has utilized the conservation method for about a decade now and has noticed positive results.


“We are fully committed to a cover crop program,” Ifft said during last week’s Vermilion Headwaters Watershed field day near Fairbury.


Ifft notes his soil biology has improved and they like what they see out in the field.


“Frankly, that’s been one of the hardest things to achieve and it takes time,” Ifft admitted.


Cover crops allow producers such as Ifft to reduce both fertilizer and herbicide use on farms with yields continuing to increase in most cases. It is a long-term commitment with results often not noticeable for at least a few years.


“That takes time and a lot of hard work.”


More information can be obtained by contacting the Midwest Cover Crop Council, Illinois Sustainable Ag Partnership or Illinois Corn Growers Precision Conservation Management (PCM).

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