Using sustainability to impact profitability and return of investment over yield was a recurring theme during a conservation tour hosted by the Montgomery County Soil and Water Conservation District and sponsored by the Montgomery County Farm Bureau on Thursday, Sept. 26.
The tour stopped at a field in cover crop on Curtis Lipe ground, south of Fillmore, then visited a soil pit on Dennis Hand land before returning to the Extension office in Hillsboro for lunch catered by Milanos and further discussion, including a Saving Tomorrow's Agricultural Resources (STAR) farmer panel.
"Read the books and observe nature," David Kleinschmidt of Progressive Agronomy Consulting Services told producers on the tour gathered around his rain simulator at the Lipe farm. "When the two don't align, throw the books away."
Using the rain simulator and another demonstration on how water impacts conventional till soil, Kleinschmidt showed the importance "of keeping a living root in the ground."
He also used his rain simulator on reproductions of four different farming practices, from conventional till to cover crop, demonstrating the amount of soil run-off, and also how surprisingly little water made it into conventionally tilled soil.
"Sometimes we make our own drought," Kleinschmidt said.
That point was further demonstrated by agronomist Abigail Peterson of the Soil Health Partnership when the tour stopped at a soil pit on Hand's ground. Peterson used the three-foot pit to demonstrate structural changes in soil from different root structures. She used a water-soaked sponge to demonstrate how various farming practices impact the soil's water-holding capacity.
"Details as small as traffic lanes in a field can affect soil compaction," Peterson said.
During the panel discussion after lunch, producers learned more about STAR, a free state-wide tool to assist farm operators and land owners in evaluating their nutrient and soil loss management practices on individual fields. The ultimate goal is to meet the benchmarks set by the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy.