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The Soils of the Illinois Prairie Lecture August 19

On Thursday, August 19th at 7 pm, Michael Konen, PhD of Northern Illinois University will speak on prairie soils at Garfield Farm Museum near Geneva, IL.

Dr. Konen is the Graduate Program Coordinator and Assistant Professor in NIU's Department of Geography. He is a Certified Professional Soil Scientist and Certified Professional Soil Classifier. His talk will feature the most ignored blessings of our region and country - the rich, fertile soils of the once vast Illinois tall grass prairie. Geology, climate, and prairie plants came together to create the most fertile soils in the world. The last glaciation left behind a level terrain and glacial till that became the backbone of the soil system. The climate warming allowed plants tolerant of heat and drought to move into Illinois from the south and west. These plants with their 12 foot deep root systems, penetrated clay and moved nutrients and water up and down through the system. Over 5000 years of these plants growing with their thatch composting into rich organic matter made the soil which now grows millions of tons of food.

Yet this natural resource is not limitless and it is being lost every year to erosion. A recent archaeological trench dug at Garfield Farm features revealed alarming changes. There at the base of a small ridge, Dr. Konen pointed out that the original soil level at the time of settlement was now covered with over 4 feet of eroded topsoil. Although no one area on top of the hill lost maybe more than 6 inches of soil, this rate of erosion in just 150 years of farming demonstrates how in less than a thousand years, a soil system could be completely lost.

Konen will speak about the types of soils found here which provide evidence of conditions before settlement. From prairie restorationists or back yard gardeners who wonder why things aren't growing like they should or homeowners who wonder why they have 3 sump pumps in their basement, Konen will talk about hydric soils, woodland soils, the mining of topsoil, etc. that affect our lives.

Konen first volunteered at Garfield Farm Museum to help with prairie restoration when he was an undergraduate. He has since participated in special events, assisted with archaeological analysis, and conducted research with graduate students at the museum. He grew up west of Aurora on his family farm and greatly values the effort at Garfield Farm to educate the public in the area's history and natural history of the land. There is a $5 donation for the lecture and reservations are encouraged so refreshments can be planned. Call (630) 584-8485 or email Garfield Farm Museum is 5 miles west of Geneva, IL off ILL Rt. 38 on Garfield Road. This former 1840s prairie farm is being restored as an 1840s working farm and depends on donations for operation.

For more information about Garfield Farm send an e-mail message to: or call 630/584-8485.

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