Goin’ Green…

Today was the first day of 2015 spring field work for Iowa Learning Farms!  Here are a few shots from my visit to our cover crop plots at the ISU Armstrong Research Farm (Southwest Iowa):

The overwintering cereal rye is showing some excellent spring growth!  Photograph taken March 27, 2015 at Armstrong Research Farm near Lewis, IA.

The overwintering cereal rye is showing some excellent spring growth! Photograph taken March 27, 2015 at Armstrong Research Farm near Lewis, IA.


Cereal rye, up close and personal…



Amidst all of the crop residue and spring cover crop growth, finding our water sampling equipment can be a bit like a game of “Where’s Waldo?.” The suction lysimeters, protected by PVC caps (seen here in white), extend down to a depth of 24″ underground.

Even the cows are

Cattle enjoying the deliciousness of spring as things start to green up!

-Ann Staudt

Conservation Chat Recap: Interview with Mark Rasmussen

Dr. Mark Rasmussen, director of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, is featured in Episode 4 of the Conservation Chat.  Photo courtesy of Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture website.

Dr. Mark Rasmussen, director of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, is featured in Episode 4 of the Conservation Chat. Photo courtesy of Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture website.

The Conservation Chat podcast series, hosted by anthropologist Jacqueline Comito, explores the relationship between conservation, soil, water, agriculture, and the people of Iowa.  The latest installment, Episode 4, features dialogue with Dr. Mark Rasmussen.

From humble beginnings on a farm in the Siouxland Region of Nebraska/Iowa (“I’ve been a cow person since Day 1 of my childhood”), to an educational background in ruminant microbiology, Dr. Rasmussen brings an eclectic collection of life experiences to his position as director of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University.

Without spoiling all of the content, tune in to Episode 4 of the Conservation Chat to hear Rasmussen and Comito discuss his upbringing and role in his family’s farmer-feeder operation; grazing, forages, and the connections with ruminant livestock nutrition, soil erosion, and nutrient reduction; his broad views/big picture perspective on agriculture today; and his passion/vision for more integrated agricultural systems.  And be sure to listen through to the end for Rasmussen’s #1newthingforwater!

Tune in on the Conservation Chat website, ILF website, or iTunes.

-Ann Staudt

March 22 was World Water Day

Yesterday was World Water Day. At ILF and Water Rocks! every day is a water awareness day.

Modern Farmer published some facts about water along with ideas that we can do to help conserve water. The magazine also ran a story about California farmers selling water instead of growing crops. They are fighting a completely different water issue than Iowa. These problems bring to the forefront just how important water is to our ways of life and our livelihoods.


A clean, drinking water toast to World Water Day – better late than never!


-Carol Brown

Welcome Spring!

Today is the first day of spring!

Enjoy a trip to the creek with ILF farmer partner Eric Boehm. He and his granddaughters spent an afternoon along the banks of Brush Creek near Wadena. Eric has worked to improve parts of Brush Creek, which flows through his farm, including stream bank stabilization, adding cover crops on his fields, planting trees and more.

Eric_and_girlsDon’t you want to take your shoes off and let the water flow over your feet, too?

girls_along_the_bankStream bank stabilization: when the river is running wild,
these rocks will keep soil and plants in place.

girls_on_bank_with_bucketWarm days, clear water, and buckets of sand.
Do I see a Conservation Pack T-shirt? Hello, fellow pack member!

Cate_throwing_rocksThrowing rocks in the water keeps you young.

Find a great place like this to enjoy our rivers and streams. Throw some rocks, search for fossils, look for creatures and fish in the water, bird-watch, stay young.  Happy spring!

-Carol Brown

Farmer Tim Smith on The Chat

Farmer Tim Smith took time to sit down with Jacqueline Comito to discuss his whole farm approach to soil health and water quality in this engaging episode of Conservation Chat.

aerial 9-29-2014

Cover crops showing off their true colors in Tim’s soybean field.

Tim started farming in his early 20’s and had always thought that he was doing what was necessary towards protecting his soil and nearby water bodies by minimizing his tillage passes and by installing filter strips along the stream bank. It wasn’t until he tested his tile lines for nitrates that he made a farm-changing discovery. “Even though I was doing the best that I could, it was still not solving the problem, and I was part of the problem.” Tim said.

This realization led Tim to add a suite of conservation practices on his 800-acre corn and soybean operation.

Click here to find out what else Tim has done on his farm, his future plans, and how he successfully reduced his nitrate levels to below the 10 parts per million EPA guideline for safe drinking water.

~ Nathan Stevenson

Manure – Resource or Pollutant?

Manure ApplicaitonWhether manure is a resource or a pollutant is determined by how that manure is managed, according to Dr. Daniel Andersen, assistant professor in the Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering department at Iowa State University.

Andersen was the guest presenter for the March ILF webinar. He shared his expertise on management and treatment of manure—an ancient fertilizer in today’s agricultural systems.

According to the Iowa DNR, Iowa is home to over 11 million farm animals in about 9,500 animal operations large enough to require a manure management plan. These animals produce a lot of manure, yet Iowa is nutrient deficient when considering manure fertilizer alone. In fact, very few counties in the state are at, or near, capacity for nutrients from manure. This indicates that Iowa has the capacity to increase animal production to meet increasing meat demands and utilize the nutrients in the generated manure. In the webinar, Andersen emphasized the fundamentals of manure nutrient management and highlighted some of the emerging technologies in management and application.

You can watch the March webinar, archived on the ILF website. All of the 49 previous ILF webinars are on the website, too.

You can also keep up with Dr. Andersen on Twitter @DrManure and his blog, The Manure Scoop.

Liz Juchems


Conservation Chat Podcast: How to Subscribe

ConservationChatLogoAngleBack at the beginning of February, Iowa Learning Farms launched its brand new podcast series, the Conservation Chat. Program manager and anthropologist Jacqueline Comito is interviewing farmers, landowners, and other water quality and agricultural stakeholders across the state, digging in to issues related to Iowa’s water, soil, and natural resources in a light-hearted, conversational, engaging and often humorous manner.  Read more about the Conservation Chat in a previous blog post.

The Conservation Chat podcast is available free of charge and can be listened to any time, at your convenience.  To stay up-to-date on all of the latest episodes, we recommend subscribing via iTunes.  When you subscribe to a podcast this way, iTunes will automatically check each day for new episodes. With an Apple ID, you can readily sync your Conservation Chat podcast subscription with iPhones, iPods, and iPads for easy listening on the go.

Here’s the step-by-step low down for how to get subscribed…

Follow the link to find the Conservation Chat on iTunes.  Click “View in iTunes,” which will launch the iTunes app.


Depending on your browser and other settings, you may be asked to give permission to launch an external application.  I was asked to do so with Google Chrome, as indicated below.  Click “Launch Application.”




iTunes is now open and running.  To subscribe to the Conservation Chat podcast series, click the “Subscribe” button on the left hand side of the page.  This is the ultimate in convenience as iTunes will automatically check each day for new episodes and download them to your iTunes library.


What if you only want to listen to or download single episodes?  Just choose the episodes you’re interested in and click “Get” next to that episode.


You can also share on Facebook and Twitter here.  If you like the podcast, share the love!  You can also leave Ratings and Reviews on the iTunes page – we’d love to hear from you.


Those are the basics for iTunes!  Remember, if you subscribe via iTunes, you can easily sync the Conservation Chat with all of your iOS devices.

However, maybe that all seem like a lot of work to you.  If you want to keep things even simpler, you can tune in and stream each episode to-date at conservationchat.org – no app needed!  The most current episode will be listed first, but all previous episodes are archived here, as well.



Finally, you can also listen to the Conservation Chat on the ILF website.  Choose the “Webinars & Podcasts” button on the right hand side, then select “Podcasts” from the dropdown menu.



So you have several options – choose whichever one is most convenient for you!

There are currently four episodes of the Conservation Chat available for your listening pleasure:

Episode 1: Bill Northey, Iowa’s Secretary of Agriculture
Episode 2: Steve McGrew, Southwest Iowa Farmer
Episode 3: Tim Smith, North Central Iowa Farmer
Episode 4: Dr. Mark Rasmussen, Director of Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture

Stay tuned over the next several days as we recap previous episodes. And get subscribed so you’ll always be up-to-date on newly released podcasts!

-Ann Staudt

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