ROSEVILLE — Farmers took the time on Friday to learn how they can incorporate organic methods into their fields during the Western Illinois University Allison Farm Organic Field Day.
The field day, held at Dakin Farm in the morning and at Allison Organic Research and Demonstration Farm in the afternoon, focused on different ways to cope with extreme weather and temperatures. The three speakers shared their methods for dealing with extreme weather conditions and helped others to do the same.
The first speaker, Grant Curtis, shared his strategies on how farmers should optimize drainage in their problem fields instead of just buying new land. Curtis said that he started installing a farmland drainage system on his and his father’s farmland to improve their farmland. They installed a series of perforated tiles in the ground that would drain the excess moisture to a pipe called the tile main, which then later drained into an open ditch or creek.
Curtis said excessive moisture causes the root systems of crops to become shallow and flat. Not only does it prevent plants from growing and thriving, but excessive water can lead to erosion, which can cause nitrogen and other soil nutrients to be washed away, he said.
Joel Gruver, associate professor of soil science at the WIU School of Agriculture, said that while soil does need water, it also needs pores to allow the air to aerate the soil.
Gary McDonald, who spoke after Curtis, taught farmers that soil is a living thing and that the soil must be taken by the farmers. He said that according to God, who he referred to as the Infinite Creator, people were given authority over living things, not the periodic table.
McDonald believes that weeds and bugs that eat crops are caused by a lack of information about maintaining soil health, so he incorporates organic methods as ways to prevent weeds and bugs from destroying his crops. The way he does this is through a process called the bio-humic agriculture production system, which involves refraining from using anything that injures the soil, and adding beneficial bacteria and microbial life into the soil through crop rotation. McDonald recommended that soil should rest before planting in order to allow the soil to incorporate the nutrients.
Seth Smith, the keynote speaker, talked about how farmers should incorporate the things that their farms need, rather than basing their methods on what the neighbors are doing to their farms. Smith bought a farm when he was in college and converted a portion of it into an organic farm. He used cover crops to add nutrients into the soil and to provide supplemental food for his cattle.
In addition to the three discussions, the three speakers and WIU meteorology professor Jongnam Choi served on a panel moderated by Gruver that had farmers ask questions about organic practices and extreme weather conditions. An informational vendor fair provided farmers with information about the services that they provide, including banking, organic farming practices and cover crops. Lunch and snacks made from local or organic products were also served during the event.
In the afternoon, Gruver lead a tour at Allison Farm and talked about the research that the farm is doing for the 2019 planting season. Farmers also took the time to go inside the field and inspect both the soybeans and corn growing in the field.

Email editor@mcdonoughvoice.com for comments or questions on this story.