Thursday, February 19, 2015

Mason County Illinois

I would like to visit this region again this summer!  "One takeaway from this weekly county spotlight feature is Illinois is not all about corn, soybeans, cows and sows. Mason County is a prime example.  This 583-square-mile county that about 14,660 folks call home is unique in both soil and agriculture production compared to most of its neighboring counties.

As with the northern two-thirds of Illinois, Mason’s story begins about 10,000 years ago during the last Ice Age. But rather than leaving behind rich, dark soil as it did in other parts of Illinois, the glacier deposited large amounts of sand in this delta region between what are now the Illinois and Sangamon rivers.

Sandy soils and crop production don’t go well together unless, of course, a well is involved, and modern irrigation has transformed this land between the rivers into a highly productive agricultural area, ideal for growing vegetables that are not as common as the Land of Lincoln’s corn and soybeans.

This transformation has been so successful that many years ago irrigation groups began referring to Mason as the “Imperial Valley of the Midwest,” cousin to California’s Imperial Valley where lettuce, sugar beets, alfalfa and carrots are the big crops.

Popcorn, watermelon, cantaloupe, green beans, peas, cabbage, sweet corn, pumpkins and potatoes join corn and soybeans in Mason’s fields atop the Mahomet Teays Aquifer that provides water for irrigating 60 percent of the county’s farmland.

The Imperial Valley of the Midwest was ranked first in popcorn acres (18,552) among the state’s and nation’s counties, and first in the state in vegetable (10,013 acres) and snap beans (3,907 acres), based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2012 survey
Those vegetables, melons, potatoes and all resulted in $12.645 million of income in 2012 for second among the state’s counties.

There were 138,133 acres of corn and 76,165 acres of soybeans with total sales of $164.1 million for a 33rd rank among the counties."

The quality of the soil sure impacts how a region develops, doesn't it?



  1. Great story Ed - I spent 6 summers working in Mason County at the U of I research farm there. It was always just referred to as the "Sand Farm". We did a lot of work on nitrogen use efficiency in irrigated corn, herbicide leaching studies and herbicide efficacy studies there. We did sweet corn and popcorn studies there where there was a lot of hand picking. The place was always hot and muggy, chocked full of sand burrs and prickly pear and more insects that you could shake a stick at. Did a lot of Extension presentations there on irrigation BMPs. That place was like being at the beach - that soil had 0.5% O.M. and that was probably giving it credit. The best part was picking up some of the best water melons and cantaloupes for the ride home.

  2. Thanks, Bill. You added a lot to the story! Nothing like someone who has actually worked where the story came from!

    Stay warm today, that is no easy task in Martinsville today.