Governor Pat Quinn announced the start of a three-year demonstration project by the Illinois Department of Agriculture to encourage the planting of environmentally-beneficial cover crops. The initiative’s goal is to improve water quality in Illinois’ lakes and streams by reducing soil erosion and nutrient run-off from farm fields. According to Quinn, Illinois is a leading agricultural state because of its ability to adopt sustainable farming practices that protect valuable soil and water resources without sacrificing productivity. Cover crops also may offer production benefits. A survey of Midwestern farmers last winter revealed higher corn and bean yields in fields where cover crops had been planted. The differences were significant, too, 10 percent for corn and 12 percent for beans. All of the demonstration plots are visible from interstates or state highways. Partners in the project include local Soil and Water Conservation Districts and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.