College of ACES
College News

Monmouth Research Center Field Day July 15

Published June 30, 2014
Green field of row crops

URBANA, Ill. – The University of Illinois’s Northwestern Agricultural Research Center will host its 33rd Annual Field Day beginning at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, July 15. Buses will transport visitors to several locations at the research center where specialists will present the results of crop and pest management research and current recommendations.

Topics and speakers will include:

  • Stewardship of dicamba and 2,4-D resistant soybean -  Mark Bernards, Western Illinois University assistant professor of agronomy, crop science, and weed control
  • On-going concerns regarding corn rootworm resistance to Bt hybrids - Mike Gray, U of I Extension entomology specialist
  • Palmer amaranth: Coming (soon) to a field near you - Robert Bellm, U of I Extension educator, commercial agriculture
  • Do soybeans need fertilizer N? - Emerson Nafziger, U of I Extension crop production specialist
  • Unmanned aerial vehicles: Sky-high scouting - Dennis Bowman, U of I Extension educator, commercial agriculture

The Northwestern Illinois Agricultural Research and Demonstration Center is a 320 acre facility, established in 1980, 1 mile north and 4 miles west of Monmouth at 321 210th Avenue. Each year, more than 50 different projects are conducted by up to 12 campus-based project leaders and the center superintendent.

For more information about continuing education units offered at the Field Day visit the Hill and Furrow Blog or the Northwestern Illinois Agricultural Research and Demonstration Center website.

If you need a reasonable accommodation to participate in this program, please contact Angie Peltier (309-734-5161,


NRES Faculty Member Directing Multiple Projects

Published June 26, 2014
Dr. Jeffrey W. Matthews
Dr. Jeffrey W. Matthews

The following projects are being conducted at the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois, Champaign, IL under the Direction of Dr. Jeffrey Matthews ( NRES graduate students working with Dr. Matthews are featured on page 19 in Wetland Science & Practice, Vol. 31, No. 2 June 2014.

Soil organic matter and aggregate development in restored freshwater wetlands. George Geatz, an NRES Ph.D. student, plans to explore vegetation and soil management activities that may promote soil development. The project is expected to be completed in Spring 2018. Contact:

Tradeoffs among ecosystem services in restored wetlands. Jordan Jessop, an NRES M.S. student, and collaborators measured decomposition rates, denitrification potential, herbaceous plant biomass, soil organic content, flood water storage potential and the diversity of plants, birds and anurans at 30 compensatory mitigation wetlands. They have found a clear tradeoff between biodiversity support and nutrient-cycling processes in these wetlands. This study is expected to be completed this spring. Contact:

Survival and growth of planted trees and recruitment of naturally colonizing trees in a restored floodplain forest. Adrianna Krzywicka, an NRES M.S. student, will relate tree species establishment to soil saturation, light availability and distance from seed sources and explore the potential for using soil magnetic susceptibility as a proxy for soil moisture when planting restored wetlands. Expected completion in Fall 2015. Contact:

Is inter-wetland distance or local environmental factors better for predicting the occurrence and composition of non-native plant species in wetlands adjacent to roadways? Dennis Skultety, an NRES M.S. student, is evaluating this question for roadways in the Chicago region. He will use wetland data collected by the Illinois Natural History Survey at more than 2000 wetland delineation sites in his assessment. The study is expected to be completed in Fall 2015. Contact:

Additional Images:
  • Biedler Swamp, South Carolina in the spring (Ralph Tiner)
Chris Steppig
The competitive spirit at the U of I has helped me to prepare for the challenges that I will face in the agriculture industry and has given me the positive attitude necessary to meet those challenges.
Technical Systems Management
Waterloo, Illinois

An introductory engineering course in high school was all it took to get Chris Steppig thinking about a career in agricultural engineering. His values in personal relationships paired with his interests in engineering pushed him to pursue technical systems management (TSM) as a major at the University of Illinois.

“TSM seemed like a perfect fit for me since it not only builds on engineering-based curriculum, but also touches on aspects of business and problem solving, which will have me working closely with other individuals,” Chris says.

Chris says he feels more prepared for his future career because of the U of I’s emphasis on leadership and friendly competition. His involvement with Agricultural Mechanization Club and Field and Furrow, as vice president of member education at FarmHouse Fraternity, and as College of ACES Student Council president has shaped his development as a leader. He says the events put on by the College of ACES have helped him because of the real-life situations they present.

“The University of Illinois has prepared me for my future by placing me in highly competitive situations,” Chris says. “Whether it is the career fair in the fall, scholastic competition between classmates, or proving yourself at intramurals, you can bet that you’re going to be up against some stiff competition. The competitive spirit at the U of I has helped me to prepare for the challenges that I will face in the agriculture industry and has given me the positive attitude necessary to meet those challenges.”


Call for grain samples

Published June 24, 2014

URBANA, Ill. – There is some evidence that the “book values” that have been used for many years to calculate the amount of phosphorus and potassium removed by grain during harvest may no longer be accurate for the crops produced today, said a University of Illinois crop scientist.

“The economic and environmental advantages of matching crop removal to replacement with fertilizer nutrients makes it important to have good removal numbers,” said Emerson Nafziger.

With funding from the Nutrient Research and Education Council (NREC), Nafziger said a new project starting up in 2014 may provide a better idea of how much nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) are contained in harvested grain of corn, soybean, and wheat. “This seems like a simple thing to measure, but we expect that things like yield level, soil, crop variety, and growing season weather affect many nutrient levels. Thus we will need to sample widely in order to get a handle on removal,” he said.

Nafziger said he hopes to get most of the grain samples needed for the study from individual producers across Illinois, with samples sent in right out of the field, when grain is stored, or after it is delivered to the elevator. He added that they will start looking at wheat samples first.

Samples can be sent in now by following the procedure below:

  1. Before harvest or at the time grain is stored or moved, the cooperating producer will send an email to to request a mailer. The email should contain the cooperator’s name, mailing address, and what grain (wheat, corn, or soybean) is being sent in. If the mailing address is in a different county than the field the sample comes from, please indicate what county the sample will be from.
  2. Prepaid mailers will be sent to the cooperator. The mailer will include a plastic sample bag with a label that has the cooperator’s name, crop, and a blank to fill in with the yield level (estimated or measured) of the field from which the sample came (or will come).
  3. The sample bag is sized to hold about 6 to 8 ounces of grain, which is all that is needed, Nafziger said. The grain should be dry (at or below standard moisture) in order for it to keep well during shipping. Place the bag with grain into the mailer and drop it into the U.S. mail. It will be pre-addressed to go to a lab for analysis.

“While we are hoping for many cooperators, sample numbers will be limited by the funds available. That may mean limiting samples from an area where a lot of people volunteer to send samples,” Nafziger explained. “If a local elevator would like to send samples from trucks coming to unload, that would work, but would mean recording names, addresses, and yield levels at the point of collection. We would appreciate seed companies or other ag retail personnel encouraging individual producers to take part.”

Results will be summarized by region with no identification of individual cooperators. Samples will be collected over 2014 and 2015. “With a large number of samples, we will be able to see how much variability there is in removal numbers and to generate better removal numbers for Illinois producers,” Nafziger said.

Contact Nafziger at 217-333-9658 or for more information.


Northern Illinois Agronomy Research Center Agronomy Day

9:00 AM - 1:00 PM
Northern Illinois Agronomy Research Center, Shabbona, Ill.
The Northern Illinois Agronomy Research Center (NIARC) will host its summer Agronomy Day on Thursday, July 10, in Shabbona, Ill. University of Illinois Extension specialists and researchers will address issues pertinent to the 2014 crop growing season. The program begins at 9 a.m. and will finish with a noon meal. There is no registration fee and the meal is free. Certified crop adviser continuing education units will be available. For more information, contact Russ Higgins at 815-274-1343 or email

Northern Illinois Agronomy Research Center Agronomy Day set for July 10

Published June 24, 2014
Carl Bradley, U of I Extension specialist in plant pathology, presents during an agronomy program at the NIARC.

URBANA, Ill. - The Northern Illinois Agronomy Research Center (NIARC) will host its summer Agronomy Day on Thursday, July 10, in Shabbona, Ill. University of Illinois Extension specialists and researchers will address issues pertinent to the 2014 crop growing season.

The program begins at 9 a.m. and will finish with a noon meal. There is no registration fee and the meal is free. Certified crop adviser continuing education units will be available.

More than 45 individual research projects covering corn, soybean, oats and cover crops are under way though the NIARC. Currently there are more than 45 individual research projects at the NIARC encompassing corn, soybean, oats, and cover crops. Some specific studies include evaluationg crop rotations, date of planting, row spacing, plant populations, crop diseases, variety comparisons, and crop nutrient management. Studies demonstrating herbicide and insecticide efficacy will be signed, allowing visitors to evaluate their current or future pest management programs side by side.

Weather permitting, presentations will take place outside next to research plots and guests will be transported by tour wagons. Field topics include:

  • Nitrogen fertilization for soybean - Emerson Nafziger, professor and  Extension specialist in crop production
  • Corn rootworm resistance  and product efficacy  - Mike Gray, professor and Extension specialist, Entomology, and Assistant Dean for ANR Extension Programs
  • Fungicide resistance - Carl Bradley, associate professor and Extension specialist in plant pathology
  • Advances in nozzle technology - Matt Gill, field research assistant
  • Weed control challenges for 2014 - Doug Maxwell, principal research specialist, U of I Department of Crop Sciences
  • Soybean maturity, planting date, and flowering intensity effects on yield - Jake Vossenkemper, graduate research assistant, U of I Department of Crop Sciences

The 160-acre Northern Illinois Agronomy Research Center has been used for crop research since 1948. It is the northernmost research center within the U of I Department of Crop Sciences dedicated primarily to row-crop research.

The research center is located at 14509 University Road, about a half-mile east of Shabbona, Ill. on U.S. Route 30 and 5 miles north on University Road. Perry Road, which runs from the Steward exit (#93) on I-39 south of DeKalb, is a quarter-mile north of the center. For more information, contact Higgins at 815-274-1343 or email

Summer in the vegetable garden

Published June 24, 2014

URBANA, Ill.  – Summer can be a hectic time in the vegetable garden, said a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.

“Heat, wind, rain, insects, squirrels and disease can make gardening difficult,” said Ron Wolford. “The following are some month-by-month suggestions to help you combat those summer hazards and produce a bumper crop of vegetables.”


Plant warm-season veggies: Warm-season veggies need warm soil and air temps. Plant or direct seed pumpkin, cucumbers, squash, and melons the first week in June. TIP: Check out the U of I Extension website, ‘Watch Your Garden Grow,’ at for detailed information on growing vegetables.

Check for cabbage worms on cabbage and collards: Cabbage worms can do a lot of damage to cabbage and collards by chewing large holes in the leaves. The adult white or brown butterflies lay eggs on the undersides of leaves. Control by covering the plants with row covers or spraying with the biological control Bacillus thuringiensis (BT).

Attract beneficial insects: Don’t waste your money on buying a box of ladybugs at your local garden center. Ladybugs will fly away if there is not an ongoing food source for them. Attract beneficial insects and parasites by planting flowers in your vegetable garden. Some good choices are cosmos, coneflowers, dill, yarrow, tansy, fennel, marigold, zinnia, salvia, sage, and sweet alyssum.

Scout the garden for insects: Take the time to walk through your garden every couple of days checking for insects. Insects and insect egg masses can be found on the upper and undersides of leaves. Insect populations can increase rapidly. Aphids, for example, can go from a few to hundreds in a short period of time. Always identify the insect before deciding if treatment is needed. Call your local U of I Extension office for assistance in insect identification. TIP: Clean up the garden at the end of the growing season because insects will overwinter in dead plant debris.

Use organic mulches: Mulches help to reduce the evaporation of moisture from the soil and reduce weeds. Mulches help to maintain uniform soil temperatures. Organic mulches include compost, shredded bark, leaves, pine needles, cocoa bean hulls, and dried grass. Avoid using grass clippings that have been treated with pesticides. Put down a 2- to 4-inch layer of mulch around vegetable plants after the soil has warmed. TIP: Dig the mulch into the soil at the end of the gardening season. This practice will add nutrients to the soil and improve soil structure and drainage.

Install a rain gauge: Rainfall can vary over just a few miles in the summer. Installing a rain gauge in your yard will give you an accurate measurement of rainfall. Install your rain gauge in an open area away from your house and trees. TIP: Empty the gauge after each rainstorm.


Give your vegetables an inch of water per week: Vegetables need at least 1 inch of water per week. Water the soil to a depth of at least 6 to 8 inches. Do not water during the hottest part of the day. Water at the base of plants to avoid wetting the foliage. Wetting the foliage is an open invitation to disease. TIP: You will lose 50 percent of moisture applied through evaporation when watering between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Watch for blossom-end rot on tomatoes: Blossom-end rot causes the blossom end of the tomato to turn brown and black. This is not a disease. It is a calcium deficiency caused by high temperatures and fluctuating soil moisture levels. It usually occurs on the first ripening fruits. Water tomatoes consistently with the equivalent of 1 inch of water per week to avoid fluctuating levels of soil moisture. Mulches also help to conserve moisture.

Watch for leaf spots on tomatoes:  Leaf spot diseases are common on tomatoes. Yellow or brown spots occur on the lower leaves first. Remove the infected leaves to prevent further spread. Growing tomatoes in cages and staking tomatoes helps to control leaf spots. Control tomato diseases by removing old tomato-plant debris from the garden and avoid wetting the foliage when watering. TIP: The best way to prevent vegetable disease is to buy disease-resistant vegetable varieties.

Watch for tomato hornworms:  Tomato hornworms are 3- to 4-inch long, green worms with white stripes and a horn at the rear end. If there are large enough numbers, they can strip a tomato plant of leaves. They are difficult to find because they blend in with tomato foliage. Sometimes you will not notice them until feeding has occurred. The easiest control is to pick them off and squish them with your fingers. TIP: If you see white bumps on the back of the hornworm, the worm will soon die. A parasitic wasp lays eggs in the hornworm. The eggs hatch and larvae feed on the worm. They eat their way through the worm’s skin and pupate, spinning the white oval cocoons.


Harvest onions:  Harvest onions when the tops have turned yellow and fallen over. Pull the bulbs and let them dry. Place the bulbs on screens or hang in small bunches for two to three weeks to complete the curing process. After drying, cut the tops back to 1 to 2 inches long and place bulbs in cool storage area with good air circulation

Protect tomatoes from squirrels:  Pick tomatoes when they show some pink color and bring them indoors to ripen. This will save the tomatoes from squirrels who like to take a bite out of ripe ones. To ripen tomatoes, place them in a paper bag. Punch some holes in the bag and fold the top over. The bag will help to keep some of the natural ethylene gas in place, which aids in the ripening process. Check them daily. TIP: You can also wrap tomatoes in newspaper for ripening.

Sow radish, lettuce, spinach, and chard in late August:  Leaf  lettuce, spinach, radishes, and chard can still be planted for a fall harvest. Prep the soil for planting and fertilize before seeding. TIP: Mix Lettuce ‘Black-Seeded Simpson’ with a red leaf lettuce variety like Lettuce ‘Red Sails’ and plant in late summer or early fall in empty areas of your veggie and flower garden. These colorful plantings make great salads and will survive hard frosts.

Plant a green manure crop: Sow a green manure crop in empty areas of the vegetable garden. Sow seeds of oats, rye, or buckwheat. Cut the plants back if they flower to stop them from self-seeding. The green manure crops can be dug into the soil in the spring. Wait two to three weeks for the crop to decompose before seeding or transplanting. Green manure crops will add nutrients to the soil and improve soil structure.

Start a compost pile: Late summer is a great time to start a compost pile because of the plethora of plant material available as the garden season ends and fall begins. Composting is a great way to turn plant material from your vegetable garden into a dark, crumbly soil conditioner. TIP: Check out the Extension website ‘Composting for the Homeowner” at

News Source:

Ron Wolford, 773-233-2900

News Writer:

University of Illinois Extension