USDA project looks to diversify farms


Nat Williams, Illinois Farmer Today

AgUpdate - Jan 8, 2022


A $10 million project funded by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture has been launched with the idea of improving diversification, sustainability and resilience on Midwestern farms. Exactly what that means is a bit fuzzy, however.


The five-year study involves academicians from several universities in Midwestern states. They are working on setting up meetings with others in agriculture to determine, among other things, how farmers can lessen their reliance on a monocrop systems.


“I would like to have — at the end of five years — a vision of how policies can be changed,” said Linda Prokopy, a horticulture professor at Purdue University. “Maybe we’ll find out that corn and soybeans really are the best fit. We may find that we’re completely wrong and everything is the best it can be. But I think we can do a lot better.”


The elusive so-called “third crop” could be pennycress, hemp or something else to rotate with corn and soybeans. One barrier — especially with industrial hemp — has been marketing. That’s something researchers will examine.


“Market development will be a big part of that,” Prokopy said. “We’ll experiment by setting up pilot markets for different crops.”


The project officially has six objectives...