Cover Crop Concerns

When growing cover Crops, like any crop, you have many things to consider when trying to be successful. This fall brings some items for special consideration. Last year, we heard much discussion in the south about drought and extreme dryness that can adversely affect your success rate with surface or areal seeded cover crops. If we are absent surface moisture and don’t anticipate follow up rains we could be unsuccessful with our seeding.
2nd and less considered is the threat of herbicide carryover. Often we worry about carryover from one spring to the next with some persistent herbicides. Consider the fact that your cover crop is being seeded 4-6 months following the application of a residual herbicide versus 11-13 months for corn and soybeans and you can see a real threat to your cover crop. If you add to this concern the lack of rain, which is the primary component to herbicide break-down, you find the perfect storm for the new seeding.
I’ve talked with long time cover crop folks and have come to the opinion that in adverse conditions like these you should make a couple of changes. First, I recommend moving to cereal rye only. This is the flag ship of cover crops for our climate. Second, with the use of cereal rye, this allows later seeding dates and more opportunity to receive rain and diminished herbicide carry. With this opportunity, drilling the seed becomes more important.
After seed emergence, watch for uneven color in the rye or slow growth. This is more easily observed if you look at different fields and compare. If you see this taking place, you may still be o.k. I’ve had this condition and the rye will most likely pop out of it in the spring and do its job.
Good Luck!

American Farmland Trust Awards a Grant to the Mercer County SWCD

The Mercer County SWCD was recently awarded a $5,000 grant for the promotion of cover crops in Mercer County.  There were 7 grants awarded in the state of Illinois.  Rock Island and Mercer counties were both awarded a grant.  This is a two year grant.  Mercer County SWCD will hold meetings, tours and provide news releases on cover crop activity.  We have decided to kick off our efforts by hosting a combined meeting at the Reynolds Legion Hall on August 1st.  Diner will begin at 5:30 with a slate of experienced speakers sharing their knowledge on the subject at 6:30.  Producers are invited to come and learn about the benefits of cover crops.  The meeting is free of charge.  Reservations should be made by contacting the District office at (309) 582-5153 ext3
The District will also conduct a field tour of cover crops for a hands on opportunity to look at the type and characteristics of different species of cover crops.  The date of the tour is not yet determined.  Information will be forth coming as the fall season develops. 

Transect Survey Completed

 On June 13th and 17th, the Mercer County Soil and Water Conservation District staff conducted the 2013 Transect Survey.  This survey provides information to the Illinois Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Land and Water Resources.  They provide information to the Illinois Legislature and in return we receive funding to address natural resource concerns in the county.  Our timing was very good with regard to the extended planting period.  It is important that during this survey, we can view between the rows to assess tillage systems and crop residue levels.  Our survey has over 500 data points and 148 miles of road travel.  We were able to get our assessments done on the early planted corn fields and had very few un-planted bean fields to contend with.  Here is a couple of unofficial thoughts following this overall view of our county.  1 - the southern tier of townships show the most delay in planting due to wet conditions.  This may be due to a higher percent of flat fields with less drainage.  2 - We have resumed with a higher count of no-till fields.  Although our numbers have not been totaled yet, you can get a feel of trends.  As crop prices have risen, we've had more people trying to plant more acres to corn and beans.  They have also had the desire to raise more continuous corn and have incorporated more tillage.  With the heavy rains this spring the ephemeral and gully erosion has been worse and we will probably have an increase in enrollment with CRP waterway acres. 


Continuous rains have delayed producers from getting in their fields to plant this spring and who knows when the rain will stop.  Heavy rains can play havoc on fields by causing ephemeral and gully erosion.  Thanks to NRCS and the Soil & Water Conservation District various conservation practices are offered to assist producers in controlling erosion problems.  To the left is a picture of a waste block structure north of Aledo, Perryton Township.  This NRCS designed block structure and many others throughout the county are doing what they are supposed to do,stabilizing the outlet of a waterway. Please stop by the NRCS/Mercer County Soil & Water Conservation District to find out more about erosion control practices or call (309) 582-5153 extension 3. 

Brownlee Cemetery Burn


The Brownlee Cemetery is a dedicated nature preserve owned by the Mercer County Soil & Water Conservation District.  The location of the cemetery is Section 31, Suez Township, Mercer County.

It has over fifty identified species of native grasses and wildflowers.  It became a dedicated nature preserve under Governor Jim Thompson's administration.

Pictured left is the conclusion of prairie burn conducted on April 3rd, 2013.  Volunteers working that day were Dave, Wayne and Bill Duncan; Karl Reynolds; Jason Hessman; Paul Grissom; and Bill Joseph.

Council II Envirothon Competition

 Council II which represents the Soil and Water Conservation Districts of Mercer, Rock Island, Henry, Bureau, Stark and Marshall/Putnam county's recently held it's 2013 Envirothon Competition.  It was held at Black Hawk East Campus.  We had 31 teams comprising 152 high school students in attendance.  Four professional speakers in the areas of forestry, wildlife, fisheries and soils had presentations on these topics. 
Students competed by testing in these areas along with the national topic of Rangeland Management in Montana.  Midland High School from Marshall/Putnam won the competition and will compete on the State level in May.  The winner of the state competition will travel to Montana for the national competition.  The FFA team from Sherrard High School pictured in the photo, won the FFA competition and will compete on the state level FFA competition.  Congratulations to all who participated!

FB/SWCD Legislative Luncheon


The Mercer County Soil and Water Conservation District participated in a legislative luncheon with associated Districts and local Farm Bureaus.  Pictured is one of the Directors of the Mercer Co. SWCD Gordon Vrana along with Illinois Representative Don Moffitt and State Senator Darrin LaHood.  Issues related to agriculture and natural resource protection where discussed.  Associate Director John Huffstutler and Sherry also were in attendance. 

Contactor's Breakfast


 On February 26th the SWCD held a Contractor's Breakfast at Doug's Town and Country Restaurant.  The meal was sponsored by Metal Culverts Inc.  Contractor's from Mercer and surrounding counties enjoyed time together and were provide information about State and Federal Programs as well as paperwork requirements. 


The District appreciates the hard work and professionalism provided by our local independent contractors.  We would be unable to address many conservation efforts without their assistance.