Soil Matters in Illinois

Progress report for ENC22-212

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2022: $80,462.75
Projected End Date: 09/30/2024
Grant Recipient: Illinois Extension
Region: North Central
State: Illinois
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Travis Burke
Illinois Extension
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Project Information


While the term "regenerative agriculture" was coined in the 1980s, in the past two years it has been described in the press as a "hot trend" in agriculture because of its potential role in mitigating climate change. There is not an agreed upon definition of what it means to be "regenerative;" instead regenerative agriculture is often defined by its outcomes or practices. However, there is not a single solution that can be recommended for all farmers, and an increased investment in technology and research is quickly creating many more possibilities. The role of Extension is to translate research into practice, and in order to do this with regenerative agriculture, Illinois Extension educators need to be trained in the principles of regenerative agriculture, including greenhouse gases, carbon sequestration, the soil microbiome, soil nutrients and fertilizers, and water management. 

A group of five to eight Extension educators and faculty researchers, with the assistance of a student, will develop this training. Digital assets (e.g., videos, virtual training tools, activities, quizzes, etc.) will be integrated into online course modules and made available through the Learn @ Illinois Extension platform (powered by Moodle). These learner-centric modules will explore the tenets of regenerative agriculture, as well as applied research, particularly research related to practices that are believed to improve soil health, including soil in home gardens and commercial farms. Modules will be evaluated and improved based on feedback from educators, who can then integrate them into their in-person or online outreach.

Project Objectives:

Five Learn @ Illinois Extension training modules exploring regenerative agriculture in general and specifically on soil health will be developed.  Topics explored will include greenhouse gases, carbon sequestration, the soil microbiome, soil nutrients and fertilizers, and water management. At least one will focus on how regenerative agriculture practices apply in urban settings.

In addition to the project team, there are approximately 35 educators on the Commercial Ag, Small Farms/Local Foods, Horticulture, and Natural Resources, Environment, and Energy teams. The goal is for 75 percent (25) of these staff to view at least three training modules and complete pre- and post-module evaluations. 






The project is underway but has not 'fully' met all of the first year plans.  The modules, some of the research and a "working plan" has been in order but templates are in the development stages. We slowly are moving forward and looking  to full  implementation of the plan as noted. The campus cooperation, graduate students and educators have been working on the process and we are hopeful to gain ground speed in early fall. Soil Matters will full throttle as we continue positioning for the next stages.

March/ 2024

A/Soil Health Matters has worked toward implementation of the proposal.  The Training modules have been launched on March 8 with a "pilot" of the modules.  The 7 modules are: 1)What is Regenerative Ag 2)Manage Holistically3) TLivestock4)Minimize Disturbance5)Maximize Diversity6)Maintain Living Roots7)Keeping the Soil Covered.

There are trainings for each module with a quiz at the end of each session.  Then a certificate of completion is award at the end. After the pilot, the 10 subject testers will begin training and community work in their counties

B/ A soil probe campaign which will be used for pastures, crops  across the state.  This too is a piece of our soil health campaign, and will be a part of the community outreach . 




Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Anya Knecht
  • Adena Wilson
  • Nick Frillman
  • Doug Gucker
  • Rachel Curry

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Soil Health Training

Distribute Soil Health Materials using technology and field staff


March 8 was the pilot date for the Soil Health Matters Initiative. 7 Modules were developed and are below:

What is Regenerative Agriculture?

Manage Holistically

Integrate Livestock

Minimize Disturbance

Maximize Diversity

Maintaining Living Roots

Keep the Soil Covered


Outcomes and impacts:

After the 10 pilot testers complete the 30-40 minute modules, they will complete a quiz at the end of each module and receive a completion certificate.  After the testing in 45 days, they then will begin community work and train others across the state in Soil Health.

Educational & Outreach Activities

20 Consultations
9 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
1 Online trainings
4 Other educational activities: Events (Meetings and trainings) discussing the modules and training in Soil Health

Participation Summary:

5 Extension
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.