Lauren Lurkins, Illinois Farm Bureau director of environmental policy, provides background on environmental stewardship issues and organizational efforts to address them without regulation at a recent Clinton County Farm Bureau’s field day. (Photo by Brad Conant)
By Brad Conant
The economics, logistics and profits of cover crops and manure usage was the focus of Clinton County Farm Bureau’s recent field day at the Paul and Lisa Meyer Farm near Breese. Funded through an Illinois Farm Bureau Nutrient Stewardship Grant, the day was packed with information.
Participants first heard from Illinois and Ohio Farm Bureau environmental staff on water quality policy in the two states. Lauren Lurkins, IFB’s director of environmental policy, kicked off the day by providing some background of organizational efforts on nutrient stewardship.
IFB is working with county Farm Bureaus and members across the state to show what can be done without regulation, including education and outreach (45,000-plus direct contacts to date); supporting research at Illinois universities; implementation at field days and projects; and telling our story with evidence of impact.
Sarah Carlson from the Practical Farmers of Iowa discussed cover crop success stories and economics from her 10-plus year experience in Iowa. Travis Meteer from the University of Illinois Extension touched on the economics of cover crops in livestock feed rations.
Southern Illinois University Assistant Professor Amir Sadeghpour, Ph.D., discussed his three-year phosphorus and manure application rate research project that just kicked off at the Meyer Farm. Mike Andreas, an independent consultant with 30-plus years of agricultural engineering experience, also reviewed the “Environmental Education for Livestock Farms” program. This pilot program began this year in Clinton County, and Andreas encouraged local participation for the free, on-site livestock facility reviews.
Related: Buy cover crop seed from reputable dealers. Read more here.
During lunch, participants heard from Kristopher Reynolds, American Farmland Trust Midwest deputy director, about the new “Fall Covers” pilot program that aims to reduce the cost of a farmer’s crop insurance on acres where cover crops are planted on eligible acres.
Following lunch, a producer panel including Jack Boyer of Iowa, Mark Litteken and Paul Meyer brought their firsthand experiences of cover crop economics, profits and more. Attendees were advised to start on a small scale with a single species when getting into cover crops. Ask questions and learn from others. Cereal rye in cornstalk ground going to soybeans was advocated as the easiest way to start.
Soil Health Consultant Terry Wyciskalla wrapped up the program with information detailing four years of plot results from a project on test farms in Clinton County. Wyciskalla reviewed plot data and discussed nutrient uptake and sequestration, forage quality and tonnage.
Brad Conant serves as manager of the Clinton and Marion County Farm Bureaus.