URBANA, Ill. -- When the University of Illinois agricultural experiment station in Monmouth was threatened with closure due to lack of funds, a group of concerned citizens sprang into action.

"This diverse grass roots group -- a farmer, Farm Bureau manager, a banker, a Realtor and others -- said that the station was a vital aspect of the community and wanted to know what they could do to help," said Eric Adee, principal research specialist at the Northwestern Illinois Agricultural Research and Demonstration Center in Monmouth.

"We told them that having extra farm land would help rotate our research and boost grain sales revenue, providing us with more income to pay salaries. Last year I sold $81,000 worth of grain. With more land, we could increase that amount and pay another salary. The group said, 'We'll see what we can do.'"

The grassroots group formed the Northwest Agricultural Education Foundation and raised the money to buy 80 acres of land adjacent to the research station. "The foundation plans to lease the land to us for one dollar per year, allowing us to keep all of the grain sales."

"The goal of the foundation is to preserve the research center," said Les Allen, a local banker, farmer and treasurer of the foundation. "We'd lose 28 years of research if the Monmouth Center closed. They needed the additional land in order to be sustainable."

The 160-acre research facility, established in 1980 near Monmouth in Warren County, is a very productive site from the standpoints of both crop yield and data generation, Adee said. Each year, approximately 50 different projects are conducted by up to 12 campus-based project leaders and the center superintendent. Subject matter areas involved in these projects include soil chemistry and fertility, soil management, crop production, weed science, entomology, plant pathology, pest management and environmental quality.

"It is heartwarming to see this very tangible expression of value that the western Illinois agricultural community finds in the work that we do at the Monmouth Center," said Robert Easter, dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois. "This financial support is vital to our capacity to continue to deliver research-based information to farmers in the region. It has been a pleasure to work with local volunteers to bring this effort to fruition."

SOURCE: University of Illinois.