Spring Brings Renewal on Illinois Farms (VIDEO) - Illinois Farm Bureau Partners Spring Brings Renewal on Illinois Farms (VIDEO) - Illinois Farm Bureau Partners

Spring Brings Renewal on Illinois Farms (VIDEO)

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Illinois ranks as the leading soybean producing state, and second in growing  field corn. Both crops provide feed for animals, renewable fuels such as biodiesel and ethanol, and oils and other products used in many types of foods. (Photo by Catrina Rawson)

Spring represents a time of renewal and excitement on Illinois farms. Weather permitting, soybean and corn planting might begin in southern Illinois as early as mid-to-late March. The state is long and narrow with soil and weather conditions that vary widely, so most planting takes place in April and May. For those farmers with cattle, spring also brings newly born calves.

“We like to calve in April, but this year we’re going to have a fall calf crop as well, so that will be interesting,” says Jenny Mennenga, who raises cattle and grows soybeans and corn with her husband, Eric, and three children in central Illinois. “Planting season usually begins at the beginning of April and we’ll finish up sometime in May.”

Meet Illinois farmer Jenny Mennenga and see how her planter works:

Climate-Smart Farming

A bit south and further west in Illinois, David Wessel and his family experience calving each spring with planting and other spring work that soon follows when weather conditions warm the soil. Wessel remains an avid practitioner of climate-smart farming, utilizing such practices as no-till (planting a new crop into what remains from last year’s) and the use of cover crops. The cover crops he planted following harvest in the fall provide feed for his cattle, a blanket of protection, increased fertility and soak up any excess nutrients in his soil.

“About a third of my acres have a cover crop planted on to them,” says Wessel, who grows soybeans, corn, wheat, rye and hay. “That’s just adding soil health and biological activity throughout the winter months when there is nothing growing there.”

Many Illinois farmers take advantage of lifelong learning opportunities. David Wessel, left, and other Illinois and Iowa farmers ventured overseas in 2015 to study crop nutrient stewardship among  fellow farmers in Germany. Illinois Farm Bureau, Iowa Farm Bureau and the German-American Chamber of Commerce – Midwest, based in Chicago, collaborated on the excursion. (Photo by Mike Orso)

See more: How Climate-Smart Farming Practices Help the Planet

To hear more on Illinois farmers David Wessel’s and Jenny Mennenga’s adventures each spring and during planting, take a listen to this episode of the Partners podcast.

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