Several soil (and water) stories to survey

This week’s inbox was ripe with stories about soil health and water quality. Is it just me or does there seem to be more articles about these topics in the forefront of the news over the last few months? Maybe working with Iowa Learning Farms causes me to be more hip to them.


The soil stories are from other states but can be applied to Iowa:

Cover crops help farmers produce own fertilizer,  Rushville Republican (Indiana)

Bringing degraded soil back to lifeHighlands Today (an edition of the Tampa Tribune, Fla.)

ILF Juchems 068

And two opinion articles on water quality from Iowans:

Changing how I look at water, by Todd Dorman with the Cedar Rapids Gazette

Iowa should invest in water quality, by Tony Thompson, Elkhart, and Jennifer Terry with the Iowa Environmental Council

-Carol Brown

Recap of September Webinar with Tom Isenhart

StreamResponseThe Iowa Learning Farms September webinar, presented by Dr. Tom Isenhart, combines stream ecology, hydrology, and water quality.  There’s also quite a good amount of history woven in, as well! Isenhart’s webinar, titled “Do we know enough about stream bank erosion to mitigate damage to stream ecosystems?”, can be viewed in its entirety on the ILF Webinar Archives page.


Tune in for a very interesting look at historical stream straightening/channelization, stream equilibrium, and the interactions between land management practices, stream hydrology, and sediment transport.

-Ann Staudt

A Few of My Favorite Things

Fall is by far my favorite season—the apple orchards and pumpkin patches hang their open signs, the leaves begin to change colors, the summer heat gives way to the cool sweater weather, and let’s not forget about football.

Another one of my favorite things about fall is helping my family with harvest and seeing green growth under the combine from the cover crops planted earlier.  Cover crop seeding is well underway for many Iowa Learning Farms partners and other producers throughout the state.  Two of our newest demonstration partners have submitted some great images from the mixture seeding conducted on their farms on August 27th.

Check them out and share your cover crop photos by submitting them to

Barry Kusel Cover Crops

Cover Crop mixture of oats, hairy vetch, and radish seeded on August 27th near Manning, Iowa. Photo from Barry Kusel

Click on the photo below to watch the helicopter in action!

loading seed tender watkins

Loading the seed tender for seeding on August 27th near New Market, Iowa. Video by Seth Watkins


- Liz Juchems

New Conservation Pack videos educate and entertain

One of the strategies that we’ve found highly effective in educating young people about agriculture, conservation, and environmental issues is using DOGS as the messengers- specifically, the Conservation Dogs! Charlie-JodyKerns

The idea behind the Conservation Pack is that, just like dogs work together in packs, it takes all of us working together to take care of our water, soil, and natural resources here in the state of Iowa.

Stewy-MarkRasmussenThe dogs have their own video series, “Adventures of the Conservation Pack,” in which they travel around the state interviewing people who work with natural resources in some form or fashion.    The Water Rocks! team has just released eight new videos in the “Adventures of the Conservation Pack” series, featuring several familiar faces and good friends of Iowa Learning Farms!

Here are a few more sneak peaks from the newly-released episodes…


Watch the new videos, Episodes 11-18, in any of the following locations:

Water Rocks! website

It’s a bow-wow world when we all work together!

-Ann Staudt

ILF and University of Iowa hold joint field day

Mxg Black Hills AG

Miscanthus is virtually an unknown crop in Iowa, but it has recently piqued interest for its biofuel capability. The University of Iowa and Iowa State University have joined forces to study the use of this grass as a renewable fuel source.

Iowa Learning Farms hosted a field day yesterday just south of Iowa City at a miscanthus plot on Dan Black’s farm. The UI is harvesting the grass for burning in its solid fuel boilers.

Read the article in today’s Daily Iowan for details about the project and the field day, “UI teams up with Iowa State on sustainability.”

-Carol Brown


New guidelines reflect benefits of no-tillage in North Dakota

Hey, check out this article from North Dakota:

Is this something that could or should happen in Iowa?

Miscanthus: New Player Emerging In Iowa Agriculture

Mxg Black Hills AG

Miscanthus x giganteus is a sterile hybrid of the plant that cannot reproduce from seed and spreads slowly. Photo from plots at Black Hills Ag.

Miscanthus is a towering perennial grass that has the potential to be an important player in Iowa agriculture.  Emily Heaton, ISU assistant professor of agronomy, and Nicholas Boersma, ISU assistant scientist in agronomy, recently published a paper highlighting the performance of Miscanthus x giganteus as a source of biomass for energy and a tool for protecting soil health.

For more information about Heaton’s work with miscanthus read the article “ISU agronomist says miscanthus would yield more biomass than originally thought in Iowa soil.”

Visit the website University of Iowa’s Miscanthus Pilot Project for more information.


To learn more about miscanthus, attend our upcoming field day:

Wednesday, Sept. 10, 5:30-7:30 pm
Bio-Renewables Field Day at the University of Iowa (UI) Miscanthus test plot

3590 Highway 1 SW, Iowa City. The site is a half-mile west of Menards.

Join landowner Dan Black and ISU assistant professor of agronomy Emily Heaton at this field day as they discuss the University of Iowa’s Miscanthus Pilot Project. The project is exploring the use of this grass as a biofuel on the UI campus. Ben Anderson, with the UI Power Plant, will explain how miscanthus is being used in their solid fuel boilers. Enjoy a meal prepared by the Johnson County Cattlemen.

- Liz Juchems

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