IL FFA Chapters Win Prizes While Learning About Farming Conservation
In April, IL Corn and Illinois Soybean Association partnered up on a hands-on learning opportunity for FFA chapters in Illinois called the Water Testing Initiative Challenge.
This new educational program challenged students to sample water from different areas on the farms, then analyze that data with a report that included improvement suggestions and management changes with explanations on why it should change.
“We were excited with the participation and the opportunity to teach the next generation of agriculturalists a little bit about the IL Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy. Learning how to identify possible problems and think through solutions is something they will use in their future endeavors. Soil health and environmental stewardship are crucial to the future of production agriculture,” says Megan Dwyer, Director of Conservation and Nutrient Stewardship at IL Corn.
Announcing the Winners
1st Place - Highland FFA Chapter
Claire Geiger, the FFA Advisor commented, "The Water Testing Initiative provided a great opportunity for much needed discussions to take place within my classroom. This activity provided a perfect chance to talk with students and inform them about nutrient loss reduction strategies, the 4 R's, as well as eutrophication leading to potential hypoxia zones. Participating led to exposing students to various career pathways, whether they had production backgrounds or not."
2nd Place - Rockridge FFA Chapter
"We are so grateful for opportunities such as this initiative that get agriculture students involved in real agriculture issues! This initiative has helped students to start building their skillset and growing their minds, so that hopefully one day, they can be involved in providing real solutions. Not only did our BSAA (Biological Science Applications of Ag) students learn how to apply the scientific method to a real-world scenario, they had the opportunity to experience the impacts of nutrient loss on water quality, how conservation practices in agriculture impact nutrient loss, and how all of that together impacts them as agriculturalists and consumers. Overall, we are excited to use their findings and apply some of the best management practices to our own FFA test plot," said Kirsten Kapraun, Ag teacher & FFA advisor for the chapter.
Taylor Dieterich, a BSAA student, commented, "This was a great experience for my class. This project not only had an impact on our learning, but also taught us about the impact nitrogen loss has on agriculture. You learn new things every day in ag!"
3rd Place - Somonauk Leland Sandwich FFA Chapter
For this chapter a student Cody Peterson did the majority of work because of his interest in this topic. He is taking the lead with his teacher to develop programming to use in their ag program, school district, and community to teach about water pollution and watersheds (with a focus on showcasing non-point source pollution such as fertilizer). They plan to use the award money to purchase an Enviroscape model to utilize for these efforts. Even after this project Cody plans to follow up with local farmers that were involved.
“One thing we discovered through this project was that high school students have very little awareness of water quality, water availability, or how very connected we all are by our water resources. We also discovered many farmers in our area utilize at least one conservation practice at their farm,” said Jenny Wold, teacher in Somonauk.
4th Place - Southeastern FFA Chapter
The entire chapter agreed, "This project taught us the importance of teamwork, as well as the importance of opening your mind to new areas of information that we may have not known much about. The impact our local farmers have on our world's ecosystem is a large one, improving our management practices and nitrogen reducing practices is absolutely vital to keeping our water clean."
This chapter also had the opportunity to expand their knowledge of other management practices after the experiment was done. They were able to meet with companies like Pivot Bio to investigate other practices that are becoming more known.
“This collaboration with IL Corn has allowed us to bring principles of conservation agronomy into classrooms around the state. We look forward to watching this effort continue to build in Illinois, while showing students that corn and soybean farmers are united in our efforts to implement nutrient loss reduction strategies across Illinois acres,” said Jennifer Jones, Research Agronomist at Illinois Soybean Association.