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Gary Heichel
Gary Heichel
Professor and Head
Department of Crop Sciences
(217) 333-9480; gheichel@illinois.edu

Welcome to the 2002 Agronomy Day, a one-stop educational opportunity for you to engage the latest knowledge on profitable, sustainable, and environmentally sound strategies for producing food and feed crops and for protecting natural resources. This year’s theme, “A Changing Environment for Agriculture,” is reflected in outdoor field tours and indoor tent displays. This educational event is a report to Illinois citizens of our progress toward the goals of protecting natural resources and providing consumers with safe and nutritious food as our state expands its leadership role in the global food system of the 21st century.

Figure 1

Figure 1. At Agronomy Day 2001, Extension Specialist Aaron Hager shows the size
of the area in which 2,000 waterhemp plants can grow.

This 46th consecutive Agronomy Day is a partnership among several academic units in the College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois. It’s one of many approaches that we use to engage the citizens of Illinois on the scope, timeliness, and importance of our educational and research programs.

The Illinois food and agriculture system is in the midst of a changing physical and economic environment. The need for quality and timely information about choice of inputs, crop management strategies, environmental stewardship, and marketing of specialty and commodity crops is compelling. In response to these needs, this year’s Agronomy Day focuses on several dimensions of the changing environment for agriculture: new problem weeds and new challenges in weed management; invasive insects and their role in transmitting plant diseases; changing crop rotations to respond to world market pressures; roles for livestock in sustainable cropping systems; protecting soybean from SCN and how SCN may foster damage by other soybean diseases; new strategies for adding value to corn; coping with the western corn rootworm; filter strips and cover crops for environmental protection; new information technologies for equipment guidance; and defending corn from diseases.

The global environment in which Illinois agriculture is practiced is also changing, as witnessed by reports of global warming, changes in precipitation patterns across continents, and effects on polar ice caps. As part of this Agronomy Day, we feature a special noon tour to the SoyFACE research facility, the only experiment worldwide where the effects of rising atmospheric ozone and carbon dioxide on crop plants are being investigated in open fields. (See the SoyFACE article for more information about SoyFACE.)

Cropping systems cover about 66 percent of the land surface in Illinois. Field, food, and floriculture crops contribute more than $7.3 billion to the Illinois economy, and animal products add another $1.9 billion. Processing industries that transform these agricultural commodities into value-added foods, export products, biobased industrial feedstocks, ethanol, and other consumer goods employ about 20 percent of our citizens and generate a large proportion of state revenue.

Although cropping systems are an important source of Illinois income and employment, they touch the quality of life of all urban and rural consumers in other dimensions. That’s because the building blocks of a quality life and of a profitable food and agriculture system—healthy soil, clean air, healthy plants, sound management and ethics, and nutritious, safe food—are inseparable.

We’re delighted to have you with us, and we hope that you will return often to this premier educational event!

Gary H. Heichel
Crop Sciences Department Head

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Participating Departments
College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences
University of Illinois Extension
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