Among my many favorite parts of this job is to experience the diverse topics covered throughout the year. An example is the Midwest Mechanical Weed Control Field Day at PrairiErth Farm in Atlanta in central Illinois that I attended on Sept. 26, followed by a trip two days later to the University of Illinois open house.

The Sept. 28 event featured the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences’ new Integrated Bioprocessing Research Laboratory, Turner Hall Transformation and the renovated Food Science and Human Nutrition Pilot Processing Plant, located in the Agricultural Engineering Sciences Building.

More than 120 farmers and venders from the Midwest and as far away as Oklahoma, California and Canada attended the second annual mechanical weed control field day for conventional and organic row crop and vegetable growers.

The PrairiErth Farm field day combined soil science and field demonstrations that focused on ways to work control weeds while maintaining soil health.

There were no “big iron” pieces of equipment there. Instead, there were demonstrations of tine-weeders, belly-mounted finger weeders, basket weeders and two-wheeled walk-behind tools. The equipment is designed to get the job done with minimal soil disturbance.

The weed control equipment has been widely used in Europe and just beginning to expand in the United States. Ongoing trials are being conducted by Michigan State University.

Among the highlights of the U of I open house was the grand opening of a new $30 million 32,000-square-foot Integrated Bioprocessing Research Lab. The facility is designed to scale bioprocessing technologies and help bridge the gap between research and industrial commercialization.

The facility links academia with national and international business development to scale up new ways to process ethanol, other agricultural biofuels and products for consumption.

The grand opening had an international connection that included special guest Soichiro Kurachi, president and CEO of Japan Corn Starch, a longtime partner with U of I.

These two events are examples of the agriculture industry’s diversity and how all these pieces fit into food, feed and fuel production, with one being just as important as the other in terms of the overall picture.

Tom C. Doran can be reached at 815-780-7894 or tdoran@agrinews-pubs.com. Follow him on Twitter at: @AgNews_Doran.

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