Tricia Braid

Jan 15, 2019  |  Today's News |  Conservation

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – For the second year, the Illinois Corn Marketing Board (ICMB) is partnering with the Western Illinois University School of Agriculture on a program to benefit high school agriculture classes across Illinois.


Through the Soil Health Bucket program, 90 schools will receive a five-gallon bucket of 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.


In 2018, the Illinois Corn Marketing Board provided funding for buckets for 40 classrooms. This year's $17,000 grant will allow for the distribution of an additional 50 buckets in 2019.


"We're pleased to once again support this collaborative educational effort between the Illinois Corn Checkoff program and WIU," said Don Duvall, ICMB chair. "We're making significant checkoff investments in research and on-farm projects as they relate to soil health and nutrient management. By bringing an education program to high school classrooms about soil health, we're really hoping to build a new generation's awareness of the value of our Illinois soils and how, when we carefully engage with our soil resources, we can maintain value for farmers and for the general public too."


The WIU program is run by Associate Professor of Agriculture Joel Gruver, who said its goal 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."


WIU School of Agriculture Director Andy Baker said last year's educational partnership was a huge success.


"We were able to develop several lab activities that emphasize the importance of soil health principles, which complement the traditional soil science curriculum taught by Illinois agriculture educators," said Baker. "We are extremely thankful for this opportunity to continue our efforts and the support received from ICMB. It is truly exciting to have an innovative, educational construct come to life through our collaborative efforts with ICMB."


One of ICMB's 11 strategic goals is to invest in research, demonstration, adoption, measurement, and modeling of natural resource issues to promote science-based voluntary solutions to environmental regulatory concerns. For more information about the ICMB, visit


For more information about the WIU School of Agriculture, visit