Cover crop field day draws farmers from three states

County Farm Bureau coalition hosts event showcasing research, potential soil improvements and a panel discussion focused on effects of prolonged cover crop use.

Barry Fisher, an agronomist with USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, discusses the impact cover crops have had on the soil profile during a Cover Crop Field Day in Hamilton County. (Photos by Doug Anderson)

By Doug Anderson

The Wabash Valley Stewardship Alliance, a coalition including nine county Farm Bureaus in southeastern Illinois, recently hosted a Cover Crop Field Day event to showcase cover crop research and soil health. About 175 farmers and agronomy professionals from Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky attended the event at “Junior” Upton’s farm west of Springerton in Hamilton County.

The field day featured research conducted by John Pike, Certified Crop Adviser of Pike Ag, LLC. Pike discussed various cover crop varieties in his research plots as well as techniques for utilizing cover crops in common crop rotation systems. Lloyd Murdock, Ph.D., a retired soil scientist from the University of Kentucky, complimented the program with a summary of his research on challenges farmers face in breaking through the fragipan layer in subsoils.

Barry Fisher, an agronomist with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, assisted with a soil pit tour of the research field, reviewing the improvements to the soil profile from multiple years of cover crop use.

Following lunch, Lauren Lurkins, Illinois Farm Bureau (IFB) director of natural and environmental resources, outlined efforts by IFB to meet Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy goals. Lurkins reiterated the urgency farmers face in Illinois as nonagricultural groups and governments push to make nutrient loss reduction mandatory on farm fields.

Rounding out the program was a panel discussion and question and answer session with Pike, Fisher, Upton, Murdock and Dr. D. Wayne Roser, a local farmer and longtime believer in cover crops.

The event was organized by the Wabash Valley Stewardship Alliance which includes Crawford, Edwards, Gallatin, Hamilton, Lawrence, Richland, Wabash, Wayne and White county Farm Bureaus, Wabash Valley Service Co. and the Wabash Valley College Agriculture Department.

The coalition has worked on various nutrient stewardship projects for the last four years.

The Cover Crop Field Day was supported, in part, through an IFB Nutrient Stewardship Grant.

Doug Anderson serves as manager of Wayne and White County Farm Bureaus.