Cereal rye cover crop

Involvement in collaborative projects and partnerships is the key to making an impact in soil health in Indiana

What’s the key to educating and facilitating greater adoption of conservation practices that improve water quality and soil health? According to Purdue University professor Eileen J. Kladivko, it is collaboration and partnership.

Eileen is a teacher, researcher, and Extension outreach specialist, and her research and Extension work focuses primarily on two broad areas: the use of cover crops to improve soil health and water quality, and drainage management systems and their effects on water quality. To do this work, she is actively engaged in collaborations with colleagues and is part of partnerships, both within Indiana and with other states.

Eileen serves on the leadership team for the Transforming Drainage project, led by Purdue University colleague Dr. Jane Frankenberger, which aims to redesign agricultural drainage systems to better optimize drainage, water reuse, and water quality in the Midwestern landscape . She has been actively involved in the discussions about results, implications, and publications and tools to make the results more useful and available to stakeholders.  She also speaks regularly on her long-term drainage/water quality project at the Southeast Purdue Agricultural Center and is currently summarizing results of this now-classic 35-yr study.

Eileen also helps to lead the Indiana Conservation Cropping Systems Initiative (CCSI), a partnership of Purdue Extension, NRCS, Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Indiana State Department of Agriculture, and the State Soil Conservation Board. The CSSI provides outreach, training, and research to facilitate adoption of cover crops, no-till, and other conservation cropping systems in Indiana. Eileen serves on the Oversight Committee as well as actively doing Extension outreach and research as part of the group.  She is a regular instructor in the CCSI “train-the-trainer” programs on soil health and cover crops as well as in the farmer outreach workshops and field days.

A regional program near and dear to Eileen’s heart is the Midwest Cover Crops Council. She was one of the founding members in 2006 and has continued to serve on the Executive Committee since the organization’s inception.  The MCCC has developed tools and products to educate and assist producers and advisors with cover crop adoption strategies, and Eileen has been a strong advocate for development and use of these materials.  That portfolio includes the Midwest Cover Crops Field Guide, the on-line Selector Tool, new cover crop “recipes” for each state, and annual meetings, and they all contribute to increased adoption of cover crops and the resulting improvements in water quality.  The broad involvement of a wide variety of people in the MCCC – including farmers, NRCS, Extension staff, conservation agencies, ag industry, non-profits, and others – has been key to the success of the group.

Eileen credits the accomplishments and successes of these programs to the unselfish cooperation of many people in the idea generation, planning, development, and delivery of each of the products or events.  The enthusiasm and dedication of many people continues to make this an exciting and rewarding way to contribute to better water quality in the region and the nation.

Eileen Kladivko, Purdue University

Headshot of Eileen KladivkoDr. Eileen J. Kladivko is Professor of Agronomy at Purdue University, where she teaches and does research and extension work in soil physics, soil biology, and soil management.  Her overall research focus has been to identify soil management systems that improve environmental quality and promote agricultural sustainability.  Specific research areas have included the impacts of tile drainage on crop yields and nitrate losses to surface waters; the interactions of earthworms, soil management, and soil physical properties; and conservation tillage and cover crops for soil health improvement.  She was one of the founding organizers of the Midwest Cover Crops Council and she serves on the leadership team of the Indiana Conservation Cropping Systems Initiative (CCSI).  She is a Fellow of the Soil Science Society of America and the American Society of Agronomy.  She was recently honored as a “No-Till Innovator” at the National No-Till Conference in Indianapolis in January 2019.

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