The End of an Era

In early 1998, Extension specialists in the Department of Crop Sciences (Drs. Kevin Steffey, Mike Gray, Bob Hoeft, and Emerson Nafziger) launched a new educational program dubbed the Corn & Soybean Classic. The program consisted of a series of regional meetings at which extension specialists shared with those in attendance the most current and relevant information related to crop production, pest management, and farm economics. Annually for 18 years, 7 to 10 specialists spent many long hours compiling the information generated from applied and basic research programs into a format that was shared with an audience that ranged in size from 800 to over 1300. An estimate conducted during a recent Classic series suggested those attending that year represented approximately 8 million of Illinois’ agronomic crop producing acres.

The Classic changed and evolved over the years: several meeting venues around Illinois were tried; 29 different specialists from the University of Illinois spoke at one or more Classic meeting; leadership of the program began with Dr. Bob Hoeft, who upon becoming department head passed the mantel of leadership to Dr. Kevin Steffey, who upon his retirement from the University of Illinois passed it along to me. Sharon Conatser and Kris Ritter provided the behind-the-scenes support for the program during its early years, which later transitioned to Sandy Osterbur who became coordinator of the program. Even with these and the numerous other changes that occurred over the years, the individuals involved with putting together the program always remained committed to providing a research-based program that was the best possible.

The adage that all good things must come to an end now also applies to the Corn & Soybean Classic; the 2015 program was the last. As extension faculty retire or move on from the University of Illinois, their positions are not being refilled with tenure-track extension faculty. Those few of us who remain feel that we can no longer maintain the standard of excellence that was the hallmark of the Classic. We currently are exploring alternative formats for conveying our research results and recommendations, but to date have not reached any decisions.

Similar challenges have led to changes in another of our programs, the University of Illinois AGMasters. Recently, we partnered with the Illinois Certified Crop Advisor (CCA) program to transition the AGMasters to a one-day format that will be held in Springfield on December 3, the day following the annual CCA conference. We sincerely appreciate the Illinois CCA program’s willingness to assist us with this educational program.

On behalf of my colleagues, thank you for your support of the University of Illinois Corn & Soybean Classic and AGMasters.