February 13, 2016

Precision Conservation Management

URBANA, Ill. – When making decisions about conservation practices, farmers must weigh financial risks, consider labor availability and cost, and manage time commitments. But the University of Illinois, the Illinois Corn Growers Association, and 30 other partners with agricultural interests have developed a new farmer service program – Precision Conservation Management (PCM) – to help farmers make those decisions. Today, the USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) announced that it will make a significant award to PCM to roll out its services in Illinois, Iowa, and Kentucky over the next five years.

“We’re partnering with the Farm Business Farm Management Association (FBFM), agricultural commodity organizations, Heartland Science and Technology Group, and many others, and using farmers’ own data to help them efficiently, effectively, and profitably improve water quality and soil health,” says Laura Gentry, Illinois Corn Growers Association director of water quality research and adjunct professor in the Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences department at U of I.

The PCM program has been specifically designed to help farmers meet the voluntary best management practices suggested in the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency's Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy, which aims to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus losses (runoff) by 45 percent.

USDA’s Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Robert Bonnie traveled to the Bloomington offices of the Illinois Corn Growers Association on Friday to announce the award, which is part of NRCS’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program.

Partner commitments of cash and in-kind contributions of more than $13 million will add substantial value to the NRCS award.

Gentry adds, “PCM was designed to help farmers make good, financially based, conservation decisions.  As part of that goal, PCM will assist farmers with participating in NRCS programs and will demonstrate the good stewardship decisions farmers are making to protect our soil and water resources.”

Farmers can enroll in the PCM program after the 2016 planting season, and can learn more about the program at PrecisionConservation.org.

February 01, 2016

Tillage Practices Vary Across the United States


USDA ERS - Washington, D.C.     No-till and strip-till are two of many tillage methods farmers use to plant crops. In a no-till system, farmers plant directly into the undisturbed residue of the previous crop without tillage, except for nutrient injection; in a strip-till system, only a narrow strip is tilled where row crops are planted. These tillage practices contribute to improving soil health, and reduce net greenhouse gas emissions. During 2010-11, about 23 percent of land in corn, cotton, soybeans, and wheat was on a farm where no-till/strip-till was used on every acre (full adopters). Another 33 percent of acreage in these crops was located on farms where a mix of no-till, strip-till, and other tillage practices were used on only some acres (partial adopters). In the Prairie Gateway, Northern Great Plains, and Heartland regions—which account for 72 percent of corn, soybean, wheat, and cotton acreage—more than half of these crop acres were on farms that used no-till/strip-till to some extent. Partial adopters have the equipment and expertise, at least for some crops, to use no-till/strip-till; these farmers may be well positioned to expand these practices to a larger share of cropland acreage. This chart is from the ERS report, Conservation-Practice Adoption Rates Vary Widely by Crop and Region, December 2015. 

January 20, 2016

Thinking Critically About How Organic Foods Sell

Organic food products are sold widely in the United States. The context in which these products are sold give them unique attributes from the consumer perspective. Todd Gleason has more with a University of Illinois agricultural economist on virtues, vices, and shelf space of organic foods.

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