By Zach Short, Hancock County Journal-Pilot

The Hancock County Soil and Water Conservation District is hosting its eighth annual Residue Management Conference Tuesday, July 14, at Sullivan and Son Auction and Events Center south of Carthage.

The conference has continued to evolve, and this year the focus will be on residue management, nutrient management, and soil health. The conference began as an outdoor event with different companies bringing in tillage tools for demonstrations. While that is still part of the day’s events, an emphasis has been placed on presentations and interactive panels indoors to help producers learn more about the changes involved with farming practices.

“Last year we added some cover crop in order to save soil, improve the soil, and put a cover on the soil to prevent erosion,” said Don Roskamp. “It’s done to promote the soil health.”

Roskamp is a farmer in the Sutter area, and he also serves on the planning committee for the conference. He views the conference as educational for a variety of people in the agriculture industry, and a place where people can share ideas and discuss ongoing issues farmers are facing presently, or could be facing in the near future.

One of the issues being addressed at this year’s conference is nutrient management, which is becoming more prevalent in Illinois. The concept is limiting or preventing nutrients put on soil from getting into groundwater, either by using less nutrients on crops or saving nutrients for future use.

Richard Lyons, a cover crop specialist with the Illinois Council of Best Management Practices, will be on hand to discuss residue and nutrient management.

“These are ways to improve the soil, ways to make the soil more productive, ways to prevent erosion, and ways to cope with what may be mandated regulations coming down from the state and federal levels that are not yet in our area,” Roskamp said.

Other speakers at this year’s conference will include Henry Wilson, Soil and Water Conservation manager for Professional Swine Management, who will discuss EPA inspections and livestock environmental laws; Cade Bushnell, a northern Illinois no-till and strip-till farmer, who will discuss conservation practices that have helped his farm; Alan Jarand, from RFD Radio Network, who will discuss agriculture and rural environment issues, and Dan Schaefer, Director of Nutrient Stewardship for Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association, who will discuss site-specific technologies that improve farm profitability and environmental equality.

“It’s a good opportunity to meet those who do practice and have accomplished this,” added Roskamp. “There are speakers that have lots of experience with different ways of accomplishing things like soil health, strip-till, and the use of cover crops.”

Another highlight of the conference is the interactive farmer panel discussion, which takes place after a noon meal. During the panel, attendees will get the opportunity to ask specific, detailed questions about the developments in farming practices that make the profession more environmentally, economically, and practically responsible.

“It’s down to earth, farmer-level, hands-on experience,” Roskamp said. “It’s hand-on learning. These guys are speaking from experience.”

Representatives from local agriculture suppliers, as well as exhibitors bringing samples, and other guests offering solutions to help limit problems will be on hand both indoors and outdoors during the event.

The conference serves as a way to share information on a variety of different levels. New methods and impending restrictions will be discussed at length as producers get a better handle on how things could change in the upcoming months. But most importantly, the conference gives people in the agriculture field a chance to exchange ideas.

“I think the best way to learn is from people with hands-on experience themselves,” said Roskamp. “This gives me the opportunity to talk with those people who have tried things and will tell you about their successes. They will also talk about things that didn’t work, and why.”

The Annual Residue Management Conference begins at 7:45 a.m. Tuesday morning, and will end at 1:30 p.m. For more information or people needing special accommodations, please call 217-357-2180 ext. 3.