- Agronomic: corn, soybeans
- Animals: swine
- Crop Production: conservation tillage
- Education and Training: demonstration, extension, on-farm/ranch research, workshop
- Farm Business Management: agricultural finance
- Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, soil stabilization, wildlife
A network was established among three farmer-managed, community-based sustainable agriculture organizations in Illinois and the University of Illinois, with the purpose of conducting on-farm participatory research and education projects that evaluate and promote low-input sustainable farming practices.
Educational projects providing practical, easily interpreted information were designed by participants. Educational meetings, demonstrations and field tours were planned and conducted involving farmers, the UI Cooperative Extension Service, the Soil Conservation Service, Soil and Water Conservation Districts, the media, and agri-business interest in the community.
On-farm research projects were designed by farmers in cooperation with university research scientists and later, with the newly hired UI on-farm research coordinator. Field studies were quantitatively evaluated using formal statistical procedures. The experimental design primarily used for the on-farm research was based on the paired-comparison, strip-plot model promoted by the Practical Farmers of Iowa. All treatments tested in on-farm research field trials were randomized and replicated.
Specific research and/or educational projects were selected by farmer-cooperators during the participatory process, but primarily focused on: (1) nitrogen fertilizer reduction on corn; (2) weed control strategies that reduced herbicide use in corn and soybeans in conservation tillage systems; and (3) tillage and rotation system effects on yield and profitability.
The objectives of the funded project were as follows:
1. Develop economically competitive and sustainable farming systems.
2. Facilitate the adoption of sustainable technologies and practices by Illinois farmers.
3. Develop the methodology and capacity for scientifically valid on-farm experiments and demonstrations.