WIU Weed Science Team Captures Regional Awards

MACOMB IL – Four Western Illinois University School of Agriculture students recently won two awards at the North Central Weed Science Society (NCWSS) competition near Ames, IA. The students were members of WIU’s Weed Science Team, advised by WIU Associate Professor of Agriculture Mark Bernards.

The competition was held at Iowa State University July 27. The WIU team placed third in the Undergraduate Student Contest and received an award for team sprayer calibration.

WIU sent two teams to the competition. Team one, which captured the awards, includes Luke Merritt, a senior agriculture major from Payson, IL; Tyler Wilson, a senior agriculture major from Murrayville, IL; Nathan Hilleson, a senior agriculture major from Lee, IL and Zach Brewer, a junior major from Monmouth, IL. Team two includes Alex Pembrook, a senior agriculture major from Greenfield, IL; Ethan Johnson, a senior agriculture major from Gilson, IL and Allyson Rumler, a junior agriculture major from Canton, IL.


“The contest involves a variety of parts, which are relevant to the agricultural field.,” said Brewer. “I found the contest challenging, although it helped me to practice herbicide ID, weed ID and sprayer calibration. These skills will be valuable in my future agronomy courses and my future career as an agronomist.”

The NCWSS Weed Contest provides educational experience for college students interested in weed science. The contest offers networking opportunities with university faculty, researchers, industry representatives and fellow students. The competition allows students to apply and expand their weed science knowledge in a practical setting.

The competition also aims to increase visibility of weed science and its importance for the agricultural industry.

For more information about the WIU weed science team, email Benards at ML-Benards@wiu.edu.


Growing Up In A Small Town

Growing up in a small town was pretty simple, there wasn’t much to do other than drive around, go to school, get a job, and for some, work on the family farm. I did everything there was to do the in neighboring towns, since I lived in the country, but there was something missing. I was ten years old when I started fully working and having large responsibilities on the family farm. My father worked two jobs, he was a farmer and he was a seed sales manager at Inness Farm Supply in Galesburg Illinois. One day my father came to me and asked if I wanted to come to work at IFS with him, being a young kid, I accepted the invitation.

I loved every part of my father’s job, the data entry, talking to customer, going to meetings, palletizing seed, going on seed deliveries, putting up field signs with variety and brand numbers, and consulting other farmers on what seed would fit their need. I asked the owner of the company, George Inness, if I could assist my father as a job and he said,

“You’re a young man, and I think it’s a great idea that you get a job where you assist your father. I’ve seen you work with your father and how hard you work reminds me of myself at your age.”

I started at ten dollars an hour and during the summers and I would work fifty hours a week and earned a steady paycheck. Not too bad for a ten year old I must say. I would work on breaks from school when there was no classes and would hang out with friends after that. It was a good life and I soon learned that I was destined to work in agriculture. Seeing that business flourish I felt that I wanted to make my mark in the area with a business of my own.

After a couple years of working and saving money and helping the family of IFS with their summer sweet corn business I saw the economic opportunity of sweet corn. The next year I was thirteen and I asked my dad if we could section off a piece of our 1,000 acres to plant a sweet corn patch. My dad said,

“Yeah, we can take one acre out of the field around the house near the road and plant some sweet corn. I found a sweet corn variety that would work great on that soil.”

We then got started on planning the business around planting season. We use a 12 row corn planter with 2 pounds of seed distributed between all the units evenly. In short that season didn’t fare too well because it wasn’t glyphosate resistant sweet corn and once we sprayed the main field for pests the sweet corn withered away and there wasn’t much more than 20 ears that were edible and presentable. My heart was crushed but instead of sulking over the failed season we just planned for the next. My father found a glyphosate, corn borer, and ear worm resistant variety and the next year we planted it.

That season, once the sweet corn came up we sprayed a post emergence chemical program and not surprisingly the sweet corn survived. Not just survived, but flourished in that one acre patch. The ears were big and beautiful and destine for sale. About a week before the sweet corn was ready for consumption I contacted the manager of the local McDonalds off I-74 and asked if we could set up a sweet corn stand out front. She was delighted by the idea if we kept the area, where our stand was, clean and free of clutter.

The time to sell was approaching fast as was the Knox County Fair. We made signs with our prices of $3 a dozen, a dozen meaning 13 or 14 ears a bag, a pop up canopy, and a cash box which was an old ammunition can. We would use five gallon buckets and a wheel barrow to pick the sweet corn early in the morning. It was my sister Sarah, my mother Sharon, my father Phil, and myself. We picked and picked until the bed of our pickup was stacked and full of sweet corn, stacking instead of just throwing ears in would save space as well as be more presentable.untitled

We sold 100 dozen a day for a whole week and even got money donations, because I was saving for college. That season was amazing and I learned a lot and had very interesting conversations with my customers. That summer was one of the best summers of my life.

We continued with the business for another year using the same business plan as before and then my father and I decided that it could be even more productive. We took out two acres and we put seed only in selected rows to make an alley way for the wheel borrow to go through. We stacked the rows and snapped off the shank at the end of the ear for more of a visual aesthetic. The selling season was a little different than previous years because everyone knew who we were and I received an offer from Hy-Vee grocery store to buy 120 dozen at bulk cost of $2 a dozen. I accepted the offer and my sweet corn brand continued to grow. I also sold to Hi-Lo in Galesburg, similar to Hy-Vee, and they bought 75 dozen.

A few years passed and the business stayed the way it had been with selling at McDonalds and to the local grocery stores. By the time I was 17 a lot of people would stop by the stand at McDonalds and even told me they saw my corn in grocery stores. I felt that it was the time to expand and open another stand up. My best friend Zach had a pickup truck and we worked out a deal with Serloin Stockaid to set up his truck with a stand in Galesburg but it didn’t last long. That stand didn’t last because of the amount of traffic, or lack of. By that time everyone saw the opportunity of sweet corn and decided to grow and sell their own but I felt that my business was superior because of the visual, price, and deliciousness of the product being sold. We sold out of corn day by day and after two weeks we picked the field dry. This season was a total success.

My business was working great with the location, price, and the fact that it was a small town, everyone knew me personally and strictly bought from me and they were also aware of my charitable contribution to the Galesburg homeless shelter. Business was booming, so much so, that we stacked the truck up with a heaping load of sweet corn every day during the next season. Then it was off to college.

I got accepted at Western Illinois University, I’m now in my third year as a junior majoring in agriculture business and economics and I still go home every summer to sell sweet corn to the people that come by the Knoxville McDonalds. This year will be tough to do so because I received an amazing opportunity, working at the agronomy field lab for WIU with Dr. Mark Bernards. I’m very excited for this job but I still want to sell the sweet corn that I have for the past years. Oh well, this is a once in a life time opportunity and I don’t want to give it up I might not have to, in order to run my childhood business because I can do it on the weekends and during my times off of work. I excited for the summer to come.

My name is Ethan Deane Johnson and I’m a junior majoring agriculture business and economics with a minor is scuba diving. I grew up outside a town of 400 in central Illinois called Gilson. I’m a 7th generation farmer and my hopes are to take over the farm one day.

Thanks for reading.

The Ins and Outs of Veterinary Feed Directives


Photo Credits: Zoetis US

First of all, what is a VFD?

VFD stands for Veterinary Feed Directive. According to the FDA, “a VFD drug is intended for use in animal feeds, and such use of the VFD drug is permitted only under the professional supervision of a licensed veterinarian.” Basically, the FDA is regulating what, when, and how producers can feed their animals.

What are the requirements?

Any type of “drug” used in animal feed must have a written prescription from a licensed veterinarian. Those veterinarians must follow strict rules that are outlined by the state on the basis of “VCPR.” VCPR is the veterinarian-client-patient relationship. In other words, the veterinarian is responsible for providing a VFD to their client. The client, or producer, then is required to follow that VFD when feeding their livestock, which is the patient. All of this has been created by the FDA.

The requirements for VFD’s can be very specific, including feed ratios and expiration dates. Producers must now have a prescription (VFD) in order to administer antibiotics in feed or water and those antibiotics are only allowed to be used for the specified animals.

What does this mean for producers?

Producers already have a tough time raising livestock to meet the criteria of consumers everywhere. Everyone wants clean, safe, and healthy livestock production. The US has the safest food supply in the world, which could be attributed to the precautionary and preventative measures taken by the producers.

When livestock are being produced in a large-scale setting, it’s difficult to pick out the one or two animals that are sick. This is why preventative medicine is crucial to providing healthy animal protein to the consuming public.

Producers also run into an ethical question. They may be forced to choose between feeding preventative medicine or letting their livestock get sick. Veterinarians have to follow strict rules when issuing VFDs, so if a producer has a currently healthy herd they may not be allowed to feed any preventative medicines. Over time, animals will get sick and the producer has to treat them afterwards. Humans get vaccines to prevent certain disease, why aren’t livestock treated the same?



Hi everyone! My name is Tyler Dawson, I originate from Rushville, Indiana. I am currently a Senior Agricultural Business student at WIU, with a minor in Animal Science. I was a previous member of the Livestock Judging Team and current member of the Hoof N’ Horn Club. I am very passionate about livestock and animal health; I hope that I can one day incorporate that into my career. Thanks for checking out my blog!

Sigma Alpha: The Sorority that might just change the face of Agriculture


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Sigma Alpha is a professional agricultural sorority at Western Illinois University and many schools across the country.  Sigma Alpha stands for Sisters in Agriculture. Our mission is cultivating Professional Women in Agriculture. Sigma Alpha has four pillars that we value and uphold within the chapter leadership, scholarship, fellowship, and service.  When I rushed in fall 2015, I thought I was just going to be getting involved with other girls that had the same interest, but now looking back at it, it is so much more than just a group of girls with the same interest getting together every Monday night. These girls have given me a home away from home, support and a better network.    IMG_6442 Without this group of girls I would not have the network and support needed while being away at school. Many of these girls I have really gotten close to and Sigma Alpha has given me the opportunity to meet other girls with the same interest from different states. I never thought I would be in a sorority but I am glad I did. The objective of this sorority shall be to promote its members in all facets of agriculture and to strengthen the bonds of friendship among them. It is the purpose of the members to strive to achievement in scholarship, leadership and service, and to further the development of excellence in women pursuing careers in agriculture. IMG_6048

Now that our membership is at a steady 42 girls, we are ready to branch out and get more involved within our community. After nationals, which is the Sigma Alpha governing body, was here back in February we sat down as a chapter and determined that our next big step was to make the best philanthropy we could. We then established a committee that would bring all of our thoughts together in an organized way. After just a few short months we have organized our thoughts and are now working on a philanthropy for this upcoming November where we hope to have a successful trivia night that will bring in money to a local organizations that’s called Linda’s Fund, which offers support to breast cancer patients and their families that visit McDonough District Hospital.

It might just sound like all we do is work, with meetings on Monday nights and working to create a philanthropy. Which is not completely false, but as a group we like to have fun as well. We partner with our brother fraternities, Alpha Gamma Sigma and Alpha Gamma Rho at least once a semester for a social. We also try to have at least one alumni event during WIU homecoming, but thats not all. My personal favorite is our formal each spring semester. The past two years we have gone to Stoney Creek in Quincy, IL and there we are able to unwind with our sisters after a stressful semester.

You can see that we work a lot and try to have fun occasionally too. Although I never would have though in a million years that an agriculture sorority could turn my life around with a meeting every Monday night and some fun times in between. I know that one day I will be able to tell my kids that a sorority is not like what you see in the movies, a sorority is where you make memories that will last you a lifetime!






My name is Kaylee Kirby,  I am a Senior at Western Illinois University with a major  in Agriculture Business and Minor in agronomy. I am an active member in Sigma Alpha, Hoof n Horn, and Ag Council. I am from Greenview, IL where my family farm is located, but currently resided in Mason City, IL.  I have always been passionate about agriculture and plan to continue after graduation in May 2018




Agriculture Production Differences from Maryland to the Mississippi

Image result for corn fieldPhoto credit: Inhabitat

At the discretion of the land

If a person were to get into a vehicle and start driving with a starting point at Ocean City, Maryland and start driving west, there would be many different observations made when traveling. One of the more obvious observations is the lay of the land. On the very east coast, the land is relatively flat. Then, when heading west the mountains start to become more apparent. Once one is over the mountains and into the central portion of Ohio, it seems to get flat again. From there it only seems to get flatter!

Another observation that can be made from Maryland to the Mississippi River is the agricultural demographic. There is produce, cereal grains, livestock, and seafood produced on the far east. Cereal grains, hay, and livestock become more of the top commodities produced when headed to the Midwest. I grew up in a town called Woodbine, Maryland. As a kid, I travel many times into the Midwest, mainly due to livestock shows. While driving the countless miles to and from the Midwest, many observations were made about the agriculture diversity that was involved between Maryland and Illinois.


To start with Maryland, the Chesapeake Bay contributes to over 50% of the blue crab harvest in the United States. In Maryland alone, the seafood industry brings in over $600 million in annual income for the states economy. Commercial landings of seafood have averaged almost 57 million pounds in the past 15 years. Maryland Blue Crabs and oysters are among the crowd favorite when consuming seafood within the state.

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photo credit: The Crab Depot

Now Maryland isn’t known for just the seafood. Other agricultural industries in Maryland include the equine, poultry, beef, dairy, produce, hog, and cereal grain industries. Last year, there was an average of 164 bushels of corn harvested per acre, 40 bushels of soybeans per acre, 64 bushels of winter wheat per acre, and 69 bushels of barely harvested per acre. There was over 20 thousand pounds of milk produced per dairy cow annually last year also. Maryland.gov will tell us that there are more horses per square mile in Maryland than any other state in the nation! The Preakness Stakes is a highlight event in the horse industry that the state of Maryland hosts. Maryland.gov will also tell  us that “in 2015, Maryland ranked ninth among states in the number of broilers, or chickens raised”, what do all of these statistics mean one may ask? The numbers show how diversified the state of Maryland really is. There is not one industry that is of major focus, but there are many industries that really make Maryland agriculture and make Maryland so proud of what they produce.


Now unfortunately for some, fresh seafood is non existent in the state of Illinois as it is in Maryland. Grain and livestock production is of a much larger scale though. On average there can be one cow/calf pair ran on about two and a half graze-able acres in Illinois. There are some parts of the state that 300 bushel an acre corn harvest is normal. At one point in time, Henry County, Illinois was known as the hog capital of the world because there were more hogs per square mile then there was at anywhere else. Now with the rise of new technology and different production practices, that is no longer the case, but there is still an extreme amount of livestock and grain production in Illinois when compared to Maryland. A very simple observation can be made by the soil color differences between the two states. On well maintained and highly productive Illinois ground, there is a very dark, rich, black dirt that covers the land. According to the Illinois Department of Agriculture, Illinois farmland covers nearly 75% of the states total land area. Illinois Department of Agriculture also states that exports from Illinois account for 6 percent of all U.S. agricultural exports. So even though Illinois may not host one of the largest race horse events in the country or have the delicious seafood readily at hand, the state is extremely important when pertaining to American agriculture.

Image result for illinois hog farm

photo credit: Illinois Pork Producers

From Maryland to the Mississippi River, there are all different kinds of agricultural practices in place. From getting on a boat every morning in the Chesapeake Bay to go harvest that days catch of seafood, to getting in a combine to harvest 300 bushels of corn an acre on the rich black dirt of Illinois, and everyone between,  there’s a purpose behind everyone’s efforts. The purpose stands behind the red, white, and blue. The purpose is, American Agriculture!

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My name is Brandon Gruber and I am currently a senior at Western Illinois University. I’m originally from Woodbine, Maryland, where I grew up raising hogs and was very active in 4-H and other national junior livestock associations. I am currently employed at Minnaert Show Cattle of Atkinson, Illinois, and now call Annawan, Illinois, home where I plan on building a competitive showpig sow herd and stay diversified within multiple species at the completion of my time here at WIU.

Sources:  http://msa.maryland.gov/msa/mdmanual/01glance/html/agri.html


How Cover Crops Double as a Good Farming and Wildlife Practice.

Cover crops are a newer method of farming that prolongs the health and productivity of soil with strategic planting. For farmers this sounds like a great idea when it’s available for implementation, but today we are exploring another demographic that thoroughly enjoy cover crops. Any guesses? How about wildlife. From deer enjoying the variety of eating options that are rich in essential nutrients to smaller rodents utilizing the additional cover, these farming method may have more of a wildlife impact than most would consider.

Where and When Should I Plant a Cover Crop?

Whether you are planting in a field or in your food plot there is a certain planting time for your cover crop. They can be planted following your harvest of your cash crops like corn or soybeans. Before September 15 will provide the best results for these crops. The earlier you choose the cover crops for your area the better, it gives you more time for research as well as insures you get the right variety. It is essential that you take time to learn about the cover crops you are using, if you manage your cover crops poorly you most likely will end up with a poor result.

Why to Consider Planting Cover Crops from a farming perspective?

As mentioned before cover crops help to contain weeds, build up your soils and reduce erosion. But they are also used in a different facet like wildlife conservation. Brassicas and tuber plants can also help with breaking hardpan. A hardpan is a layer of compaction that is hard for roots to grow through, but these cover crops can assist in breaking the hardpan apart. This will make it easier from future plant to grow. Cover crops are often a key role for organic farmers to keep their soil stable, within the strict organic guidelines.

Courtesy of Jacob Hofer

Examples of Cover Crops.

Depending on the soil type and directed mission, there can be many options for cover crops that also double as a wildlife drawing sanctuary. For instance; rye, wheat, barley and oats are commonly used according to Sare Org. All of those grass cover crops are high carbohydrates giving nutrients and energy for animals preparing for winter.  

Leveraging Cover Crops for Wildlife Benefits

Earlier in the article, it was mentioned that cover crops can often bring in wildlife and essentially work as a food plot and double as a farming technique. For some who farm and also hunt, implementing a cover crop plan could save on traditional food plot or wildlife plots.

Courtesy of Jacob Hofer

Measuring Success

With the use of cover crops bringing in more wildlife it could be helpful to see what animals are visiting your property. A trail camera could be a great addition to help you monitor the new activity. In your fields there will also be a helpful hold of nitrogen and other nutrients for the next years crop. It is pressing that hunters and farmers strive to keep wildlife management a main priority. This wildlife helps to improve the diversity of your area, for yourself as well as future generations. 

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My name is Miranda Wright and I am currently a junior at Western Illinois University majoring in Agriculture Science with a minor in Agriculture Economics. I am from Henry, Illinois where I grew up on a grain and cattle operation. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog post!


Clean Energy is No Longer a Dream!

   By: Alison Riesing

Agricultural Education Major

   In the past, clean energy was thought to be only for the wealthy.  No More!  Clean energy is now a realistic alternative for the average citizen.  There are even several options to choose from depending on location and preference.  These options include solar energy, wind energy, geothermal, and tidal energy.  I will be focusing on solar energy because this is the energy that I am most excited about, followed in a close second by wind energy.  Continue reading to learn more about these clean energy’s.

Solar Energy

Solar energy is the most popular form of clean energy.  The main reason for this, if you could not guess, is that everywhere has sunlight.  We shouldn’t continue to pay to dig, harvest, refine, and transport fossil fuels when we can buy and setup a solar panel like any other type of appliance.

The only problem that faced solar energy in the past was storage.  This was not always a hindrance.  A man that my father knows rigged his solar panels to a car battery, then he rigged the battery to run his TV and computers at night.  It is nit optimal to have car batteries siting around the house, but where there is a will there is a way.  Today we have batteries designed to store solar energy.

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Figure 1 from greenenergyjubilation.com

        Solar energy is suitable for individual homes, businesses, or even augmenting a city’s already existing power grid.  The Tesla company is in the process of building a factory that only runs on clean energy.  There are also several companies, colleges, and even high schools that are augmented almost completely with solar energy.

For those that live in a typically cloudy area, solar can still be for you.  A person would need to look at their areas ‘solar budget’.  This might lead you to only augmenting your current power supply, or adding a couple of additional panels to gather more sunlight.

The fact is that we have a solar powered space craft that has been successfully launched several times and already have solar powered cars on the road.  We now need to advertise the fact that these alternatives are available and affordable!  The largest amount of energy I have used in a month is 500 kilowatts.  According to the solar calculator at wholesalesolar.com I would need a system that can produce 5555 watts.  According to news.energysage.com this solar system would cost me $15,000 after a single federal tax rebate.  That may seem like a lot, but in the long run and with some additional rebates it really is not that expensive.  This site has even stated that these prices have dropped about nine percent from 2016.  I have even run across some sites and articles that mention payment plans.  I greatly encourage you to do the math for your area and see if solar panels are in your near future.

solar house

Figure 2 from dfwsolarelectric.com

        The following information is form the website altenergy.org.  I recommend that if you have any interest in the following energies that you post a blog as well to share the information.

Wind Power. The movement of the atmosphere is driven by differences of                 temperature at the Earth’s surface due to varying temperatures of the Earth’s surface       when lit by sunlight. Wind energy can be used to pump water or generate electricity, but requires extensive areal coverage to produce significant amounts of energy.”

This is no longer true.  They have now come out with a wind energy turbine that is roughly about 18 feet tall.  They have also solved some of the problems form the originals.  They have made them bladeless, so they will no longer induce seizure, throw ice chunks, or harm the local wildlife.  They have also made them nearly silent.  This means they will no longer drowned out all other sounds.

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Figure 3 above from iniegogo.com and on the bottom from youtube.com

   “Hydrogen and fuel cells. These are also not strictly renewable energy resources but are very abundant in availability and are very low in pollution when utilized. Hydrogen can be burned as a fuel, typically in a vehicle, with only water as the combustion product. This clean burning fuel can mean a significant reduction of pollution in cities. Or the hydrogen can be used in fuel cells, which are similar to batteries, to power an electric motor. In either case significant production of hydrogen requires abundant power. Due to the need for energy to produce the initial hydrogen gas, the result is the relocation of pollution from the cities to the power plants. There are several promising methods to produce hydrogen, such as solar power, that may alter this picture drastically.”

   “Geothermal power. Energy left over from the original accretion of the planet and augmented by heat from radioactive decay seeps out slowly everywhere, [every day]. In certain areas the geothermal gradient (increase in temperature with depth) is high enough to exploit to generate electricity. This possibility is limited to a few locations on Earth and many technical problems exist that limit its utility. Another form of geothermal energy is Earth energy, a result of the heat storage in the Earth’s surface. Soil everywhere tends to stay at a relatively constant temperature, the yearly average, and can be used with heat pumps to heat a building in winter and cool a building in summer. This form of energy can lessen the need for other power to maintain comfortable temperatures in buildings, but cannot be used to produce electricity.”


Figure 4 from youtube.com

   “Other forms of energy. Energy from tides, the oceans and hot hydrogen fusion are other forms that can be used to generate electricity. Each of these is discussed in some detail with the final result being that each suffers from one or another significant drawback and cannot be relied upon at this time to solve the upcoming energy crunch.”


Figure 5 from offshorewind.biz

        We already have designed and use many different forms of clean energy.  Now we only need to refine the designs we already have.  If we put all the energy we put into improving our gizmos into clean energy, even if for only a year, think where we will be.  I cannot wait until everyone in the world is no longer dependent on fossil fuels, if for no other reason than cost alone.