Farmers are digging in for a hands-on battle against soil erosion in Rock Island County.
Cover crops like oilseed radishes replenish the soil by depositing nutrients and protecting the land. Fall plantings go dormant in time for corn and soybeans.
“Why would you want to leave a piece of ground bare when you can have something growing on it year round to keep it covered and protected?” asked Mark Jackson, a USDA specialist.
That explains this field day in rural Sherrard on a frigid November morning. The experiment includes ten different mini-plots. It’s a team effort between the Rock Island and Mercer Soil and Water Conservation Districts.
There are state and federal incentives to try out cover crops. They actually help with weed control and can cut back on pesticide use.
“Like anything new, you always have those innovators out there that want to try something different,” said Research Conservationist Rich Stewart.
The two-year pilot program includes something called cereal rye. Mercer County farmer Keith Kindelsperger conquered the challenges with it and its trying again.
“I’m really impressed by the crop that I had,” he said. “I’m going to continue to expand in cover crops.”
Benefits will help to protect the land for future generations, Now, it’s all about getting more farmers to participate.
The cover crop program is growing each year. It’s actually an old farming concept that’s becoming new again.
“We’re going to have to increase our productivity,” Jackson said. “But we’re also going to have to be smart about it.”
This is environmental education that’s helping to ease soil erosion.
“This is one way, I think, that we can explore the possibility of raising better, more crops,” Kindelsperger concluded.
At this Sherrard farm, it’s all about going green year round.