Decatur Gets Grounded on Soil Health

(Posted Thu. Sep 18th, 2014)

This week, corn farmers David, Joe and Chase Brown hosted area growers, soil health experts and neighbors on their farm near Decatur, Illinois for a Soil Health Partnership field day. The day’s agenda kicked off with the Brown family describing how they started using cover crops during the drought in 2012 to feed livestock. Now, they are committed to seeing what else cover crops can deliver in terms of keeping the soil healthy and making more accurate maps to show exact soil types in their fields.


“The Soil Health Partnership is focusing its field day efforts in Illinois, Indiana and Iowa this year because of established programs using cover crops as a soil health best practice,” said Nick Goeser, NCGA’s manager of soil health and sustainability. “However, the program is looking to get more farmers involved because we want to know how soils are impacted at the local level across a wide geographic area.”


Caroline Wade, nutrient watershed , manager for Illinois Corn Growers Association and the Illinois Council on Best Management Practices, talked to the group about the state’s current nutrient issues and what opportunities exist to help farmers voluntarily reduce the environmental impacts of nutrient runoff. Since no two farms are alike, Wade touched on available cover crop training and tools like the Fieldprint Calculator that assist farmers in figuring out what will work best in their operation.


Cover crops generated a great deal of discussion. Scott Wholtman, cover crop lead for La Crosse Seed, provided the group with information on when to order seed, the types of seeding practices available, what works best locally, the conditions for optimal use and spring management.


The group heard from NRCS District Conservationist Robert Lawson about soil health and conservation programming effort in Illinois. Macon County area programs were discussed by Watershed Specialist Megan Baskerville and Conservation Program and Marketing Manager Laura DeOrnellas. 


Additional field days continue to be added to the schedule. For the most current listing of Soil Health Partnership field days and locations, visit or email