ICGA Recognizes Upton for Environmental Work

Lindsay Mitchell

Nov 21, 2023  |  Today's News |  ICGA

The IL Corn Growers Association (ICGA) recognized Ralph Upton, Jr “Junior” for his commitment to on-farm conservation during their annual meeting on November 21 at the Asmark AgriCenter in Bloomington, IL. Upton was honored to receive the Mike Plumer Environmental Award, having known and worked with Mike Plumer for many years.


Upton is locally known as a conservation expert in his area of the state in Hamilton County. He is committed to stewardship of soil and water, is a veteran no-tiller, and a long-time advocate of soil building techniques. Importantly, Upton uses his extensive first-hand knowledge and experiences to help other farmers understand conservation practices and determine what could work on their own farms.


Junior Upton“It is my honor to present Mr. Upton the Mike Plumer Environmental Award,” said Matt Rush, ICGA President and Fairfield, IL farmer. “Junior Upton is a conservation expert in southern Illinois. He has tried many things, been successful and failed, and is willing to share all that knowledge with the farmers in our region that also have poorer soils and suffer with similar problems. Junior Upton is a model for conservation adoption and education.”


Upton began farming full time in 1964. He remembers initial conversations about cover crops on a conservation farm tour in 1998 and has worked closely with the Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District, the University of Illinois’ Extension Service, and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service since.


Mike Plumer, a former Extension expert on conservation practices for whom this award is named, compiled ten years of data from Upton’s farm on soil improvements, yield increases, and other accomplishments, changes, and lessons. The result is a cover crop program that incorporates other conservation management practices like no-till to rebuild his poorly drained soil. He now uses hairy vetch after harvesting wheat and annual ryegrass after harvesting soybeans. He predicts no-till saves him significant money, and although cover crops cost him between $8 - $20 per acre, they save him money on input costs.


Says Upton, “I’m always looking for ways to solve problems and this really works.”