Extension Ag Update
March/April 2010
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On-Farm Sulfur Study: Farmer Cooperators Needed

Sulfur is an essential nutrient for corn and historically, sulfur application has not been recommended in Illinois because of soil supply, manure application, and atmospheric deposition was sufficient to supply sulfur needs. Studies conducted in the late 1970's suggested very little chance for sulfur fertilizer response.

However, soil sulfur levels or supply may have diminished since that study was conducted, notes Fabian Fernandez, University of Illinois Extension soil fertility specialist. The Clean Air Act of 1970, increasing crop yields, and changes in fertilizers and fungicides have impacted the "supply" of sulfur.

In order to quantify the potential for a yield response to sulfur application, sulfur trials across Illinois are being established again in 2010. Volunteers are being identified that would like to participate in an on-farm study to measure corn response to sulfur application.

While the emphasis will be conducting the studies on light colored, coarse textured soils with less than two percent organic matter, "heavier", darker colored soils will be considered. However, fields that have received manure or sulfur application within the last five years will not be considered.

According to Fernandez, farmers conducting the trials will need to follow a simple design applying 0 and 30 pounds sulfur per acre as a broadcast application in a uniform portion of the field. A minimum of three replications or as many as eight replications are needed for each field. These strips can be anywhere from 8 to 16 rows wide by 300 to 1,000 feet long.

Sulfur sources will be limited to either ammonium sulfate, MicroEssentials™ sulfur, or elemental sulfur. Spring broadcast application is preferred. The host farmer will need to provide the yield for each strip based on a weigh wagon or combine yield monitor. Fernandez and his research team will visit the site two to three times during the growing season to take soil and plant samples.

Those interested in participating, or having questions, should contact Fabian Fernandez, Department of Crop Sciences, phone 217-333-4426, email fernande@illinois.edu

Integrated Perennial Weed Management On-Farm Research Mini-Grant Program

The objectives of this project...
It is our hope this project will increase your knowledge and awareness of perennial weeds and help you improve your skills and practices in managing perennial weeds using integrated management approaches. The stated objectives of our project are: 1) expand a farmer-based research and co-learning network, 2) develop effective and sustainable systems for perennial weed management, and 3) disseminate information and foster farmer adoption of site-specific sustainable best management practices. One tool we are using to accomplish these goals is the mini-grant program.

What we are looking for...
To fulfill the conditions of the grant we are looking for farmers to participate in the program. Participating farmers will be currently farming in Illinois or in neighboring states within close proximity of the Illinois border. We are looking for sustainable and organic farmers working to develop methods to cope effectively with perennial weeds in their grain or vegetable systems. When we review your application we will be looking at your farming system, farm location, and how open you are to innovative approaches to managing perennial weeds.

The website takes you to an on-line form to apply for a mini-grant for on-farm research to test chemical-free methods for managing perennial weeds in sustainable and organic farming systems in Illinois and nearby regions of neighboring states. Across the Midwest organic and sustainable farmers report that managing perennial weeds without chemicals is one of their most difficult challenges. If that's you, please apply for a mini-grant for managing perennial weeds on your farm. There is also a printable version of this application that can be filled out by hand and mailed or faxed. To request one, please call Dan Anderson, 217-621-7974.