University News

School of Agriculture Partnership Enhances High School, Community College Ag Classes

May 21, 2018

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MACOMB, IL – The Western Illinois University School of Agriculture has partnered with the Illinois Corn Marketing Board to develop a program that benefits high school agriculture classes across Illinois.

Forty high school and community college agriculture teachers will receive a Soil Health Bucket as part of the program. The five-gallon bucket contains supplies for evaluating soil functions and a comprehensive curriculum for engaging students in employing the interacting impact of soil type and soil management. Topics covered in the curriculum include water filtering and storage, nutrient provision and cycling and conversion of crop residues into soil organic matter.

Funding for the pilot project was provided by the Illinois Corn Marketing Board.

"The Illinois Corn Marketing Board is excited about this partnership with Western Illinois University and the opportunity to help facilitate an educational pilot initiative focused on the value of healthy and productive soils," said Travis Deppe, nutrient loss reduction manager of the Illinois Corn Marketing Board. "Ultimately, we hope this collaborative effort will lead to an improved understanding of soil health and how ag professionals, farmers and gardeners can achieve it."

In June, Associate Professor of Agriculture Joel Gruver will present information about the program at the Soil Health Workshop at the 2018 Illinois Association of Vocational Agriculture Teachers Conference in Decatur, IL. He said the long-term goal of the project is to provide every secondary and post-secondary agriculture program in Illinois with a bucket and to foster a science-informed and youth-led dialogue within agricultural communities across Illinois about the benefits of soil health enhancing practices.  

School of Agriculture Director Andy Baker said this is the school's third collaborative project with the Illinois Corn Marketing Board in the last three years.

"We look forward to many more collaborative efforts in the future," said Baker. "We have created a hashtag for this project, #soilmatters, so teachers can share their educational experiences utilizing these educational materials with their students. We greatly appreciate the Illinois Corn Marketing Board supporting initiatives that promote soil health, which is the backbone in production agriculture."

For more information about the WIU School of Agriculture, visit

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