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Welcome to Agronomy Day

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

Welcome to the 2003 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, “Agriculture at the Crossroads,” 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. This 47th 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.

figure 1

Figure 1. Associate Professor Brian Diers (right) uses humor to make a
point during his presentation at a 2002 Agronomy Day field tour.

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. “What’s next?” is a question frequently posed to us. In response to these needs, this year’s Agronomy Day focuses on several dimensions of new technologies to maintain our edge in profitability and sustainability, and new challenges from pests that our state faces in its quest to remain globally competitive. Topics include: use of transgenic corn hybrids instead of pesticides to manage corn insects; new wheat varieties with resistance to fusarium head blight; diversification of enterprises with fruit and vegetable crops; new and potential pest threats to soybean; the increasing occurrence of herbicide resistance in waterhemp; the role of secondary insects in diminishing crop profits; strategies to use nitrogen more efficiently; reducing the potential for carcinogens in food grade corn; “intelligent” application of fertilizer; and vacuum loading of a VRT manure spreader.

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 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 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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Department of Crop Sciences
College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences
University of Illinois Extension
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