Small Grains Conference

2020 Small Grains Conference

March 4 – 5 | Springfield, IL

Wyndham Springfield City Centre | 700 E Adams Street Springfield, IL 62701

Join us in historic Springfield to learn about growing small grains, cover cropping and the benefits of an extended rotation. The conference has twelve breakout sessions throughout the day will include topics on integrating animals with a small grains operation, marketing small grains, the agronomy behind successfully raising small grains and more.

Sponsor the small grains conference

Registration is live!

Free for PFI members; $40 for non-members. If you are not currently a member but would like to join Practical Farmers of Iowa, click here for membership information. Registration closes Friday, February 28.

Register here!


A block of rooms is being held for the nights of March 4-5 under Practical Farmers of Iowa. To book a room, visit the Wyndham Springfield City Centre’s website or give them a call at (217) 789-1530 and press 1 for reservations. Rooms will be held until February 12.


Wednesday, March 4

11 a.m. – Noon | Registration

Noon – 1 p.m. | Lunch and Plenary

1:20 – 2:30 p.m. | Session 1

2:50 – 4 p.m. | Session 2

4 – 5:30 p.m. | Reception

Thursday, March 5

8:30 – 9:40 a.m. | Session 1

10 – 11:10 a.m. | Session 2

11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. | Lunch and Plenary


Opening Plenary | Noon – 1 p.m.
Profitability of Building Soil Health: Diverse Crop Rotations, No-Till and Cover Crops

Speaker: Rick Clark

The Clark family has been living on their farm since the 1880s. With Rick being fifth generation, today the farm encompasses a total of 7,000 acres. One-third of the farm is in a three-year rotation with corn, soybeans and wheat. Another third is in a four-year crop rotation – corn, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa – for a dairy. The final third is in transition to organic. Rick will share how his farm and his pockets have remained profitable in efforts to regenerate his soil.

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Session 1 | 1:20 – 2:30 p.m.
Ryelage as a Feed Source for a Dairy Farm: How to Make It Work

Speaker: Paul Meyer

Hear Paul Meyer discuss how he plants cereal rye and has been using it as a feed source. Compare rations with and without ryelage, assess how dairy cattle performed and learn how adding a ryelage crop to the farm has changed soil health and production.

High-Quality Cover Crop Seed Production and How to Stay on the Right Side of the Law

Speakers: Randy Wilken & Doug Miller

In this session, Randy Wilken of ProHarvest Seeds – a large cover crop seed vendor in Illinois and across the Corn Belt – will discuss factors the company considers when purchasing locally raised cover crop seed. Doug Miller, from Illinois Crop Improvement Association, will then share seed quality insights along with legal considerations when saving seed. You will learn about the steps for becoming a seed dealer and how to sell seed to a seed company. You’ll also gain an understanding of quality issues and the agronomic basics of seed production.

Why Small Grains and Extended Rotation Matter on My Farm

Speakers: Jack Erisman & Rick Clark

Learn from Jack and Rick about how they use small grains in rotation with corn and soybeans on their integrated crop and livestock farms. Bring your questions about how to grow cereal rye, oats and winter wheat; learn about summer cover crops and rotational pasture establishment; and hear how extended rotation benefits conventional, transitioning and organic production.

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Session 2 | 2:50 – 4 p.m.
New and Classic Tools for Small-Grain Variety Selection

Speakers: Jessica Rutkoski & Madhav Bhatta

The path to crop success begins well before planting with selecting the variety that will meet growers’ goals. In this session, we will review the latest variety trials and genetics produced by University of Illinois in its wheat and oat breeding programs. We will also demonstrate a new tool that can help with variety selection decisions. The tools uses genetics and environmental modeling to predict how small grains will perform throughout the Upper Midwest.

Increasing Profitability on Small Grain Acres with Cover Crops and Livestock

Speaker: Dave Bishop

Add value to small-grain acres with cover crops and grazing. Small grains are often overlooked in the Midwest because they are regarded as less profitable than corn or soybeans. Learn about ways to increase the profitability of small-grain acres and build soil with diverse regenerative farming systems. Join cattle and organic row crop farmer, Dave Bishop, to discuss the benefits of extended grazing windows, and integrating cover crops and small grains on a diversified farm.

Illinois Soft Wheat Milling Market: Advantages and New Opportunities

Speaker: James Harper

ADM’s new mill in Mendota, Illinois, has opened new markets in the region and offers opportunities to participate in sustainable agriculture programs. The mill will make high-quality, food-grade products from soft wheat, and will have prices and grain specifications in accordance with these goals. This session will discuss the advantages and benefits of expanding your crop rotation with wheat, as well as the prices, market specifications and other key details related to completing the sale.

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Session 1 | 8:30 – 9:40 a.m.
Calculating the Value of Small Grains in Livestock Diets

Speaker: Becca Brattain

As farmers consider integrating small grains in livestock rations, the first question is how to make an equivalent exchange for both feed value and price as compared to corn. Join Becca to learn how to calculate the cost of energy and protein values in small grains, as well as obtain break-even prices for small grains versus corn and soy for both swine and ruminants.

Minimizing Nutrient Loss by Diversifying Crop Rotation

Speaker: Lowell Gentry

A more diverse crop rotation with a small grain plus a winter cover crop can tighten the N cycle and limit the amount of nitrate in tile drainage water. A study led by Lowell Gentry’s research team at the University of Illinois found nitrate loss in agricultural drainage tiles was nearly eliminated on 200 acres of farmland in only one year with a longer crop rotation (corn/soybeans/wheat) and cover crops. Join Lowell to hear how his team has been investigating the impact of small grains and cover crops in row crop rotations and their impacts on nutrient loss.

Profitably Selling Wheat to Milling Markets

Speaker: Carl Schwinke

Wheat specifications for food-grade milling markets are exacting – but if met, they come with attractive price premiums. In this session, Carl Schwinke of Siemer Milling Company will review key specifications for milling wheat; tips on how to meet these specifications with management; and the pricing and contract structure the company offers.

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Session 2 | 10 – 11:10 a.m.
Experience Feeding Barley and Hybrid Rye to Pigs

Speakers: Hans Stein & Molly McGhee

Small grains fill a niche in crop and livestock production systems as useful feedstuffs in well-balanced rations. Join Hans and Molly to learn how their research is evaluating the nutritional values of hybrid rye and barley for pigs.

Managing Legume Cover Crops for Multiple Benefits on Farms

Speaker: Jennifer Blesh

Learn about the services legume cover crops can provide to your farm when grown alone or in mixtures with grasses and brassicas. We will focus on understanding legume nitrogen fixation and how to estimate nitrogen availability from legume cover crops. Jennifer will draw on research conducted over the past 12 years focused on ecological nutrient management on farms and research stations in the Midwest.

Midwestern Grain Value Chains: From Land, to Mill, to Consumer

Speakers: Alyssa Hartman, Harold Wilken, Ceclia Gunther & Erin Meyer

A conversation between a land owner/retail sales manager, farmer/miller, and dietitian/networker will span topics from land access to market access, with a focus on how local small grain value chains can revive both rural economies and human health.

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Closing Plenary | 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Learning From Farmers: Diversifying Crop Rotations to Make Farms More Resilient

Speaker: Jennifer Blesh

Hear Dr. Jennifer Blesh remind us of the unintended consequences of current agricultural landscapes. Jennifer will summarize her experience with on-farm research to describe how an ecological approach to agriculture can help transform cropping systems to be more resilient.


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Grain Millers, Inc ALS logo Keystone CMYK
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Association of Illinois Soil & Water Conservation Districts (AISWCD)

Deer Creek Seed

Illinois Stewardship Alliance

Illinois Sustainable Ag Partnership

Midwest Grass & Forage


sponsor the small grains conference

Small Grains Conference Planning Committee

  • Clay Bess – Precision Conservation Management
  • Will Glazik – IDEA Network
  • Mallory Krieger – IDEA Network / Organic Agronomy Training Service
  • Alyssa Hartman – Artisan Grain Collaborative
  • Mike Doherty – IL Wheat Association
  • Charlene Blary – IL Wheat Association
  • Talon Becker – U of IL Extension
  • Dean Oswald – Midwest Grass and Forage
  • Liz Stelk – Illinois Stewardship Alliance
  • Kris Reynolds – American Farmland Trust
  • Grant Hammer – Association of Illinois Soil and Water Conservation Districts (AISWCD)


From Interstate 55, take exit 98B for IL97 W & Clear Lake Ave. and merge onto IL 97N & E Clear Lake Ave. You will pass by a Starbucks, and will be heading west toward the hospital. Continue on this road for about 2.5 miles. IL97 will merge with E Jefferson St and then you will turn left onto N 9th St for two blocks; turn right onto E Adams St and the Wyndham should be on the left with a tall circular tower.

Event Questions

For questions, contact Hannah Grosspietsch at (515) 232-5661 or


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