April webinar: Adding prairie strips to Iowa farms

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Today’s Iowa Learning Farms webinar presenter is Tim Younguist, farmer liaison with the STRIPS project. He has been working for the last year and a half with farmers across the state who want to incorporate strips of prairie into their corn-soybean acres. Tim is an ag specialist in the Agronomy Department at Iowa State University and a fifth-generation farmer.

Youngquist’s presentation provides background on the STRIPS project: the first experiment of prairie strips. He also discusses the benefits of adding prairie strips to fields as well as things to think about as you consider installing these on your own farm. Currently, there are 20 farms in Iowa using prairie strips with more being added this summer.

You can watch the recording of the April webinar here; links to all of our past webinars—this one makes 51!—are found on the Webinars page on the ILF website.

STRIPS logo largeYou can find more information about the project on the STRIPS website.
Carol Brown

Another Iowa Champion Cover Crop Commissioner shares his story

By guest blogger Clare Lindahl, Executive Director, Conservation Districts of Iowa

 

“People think that stories are shaped by people. In fact, it’s the other way around.”

–Terry Pratchett, author

If you have not read my February guest article on the Clean Water Iowa Blog you may not know about Conservation Districts of Iowa’s Champion Cover Crop Commissioners Program!

Through the program, Conservation Districts of Iowa, with support from the National Wildlife Federation, assisted 10 elected Iowa Soil and Water Conservation District Commissioners using cover crops on their farms to share their experiences with others in 2014.

Throughout last year, the 10 Champion Cover Crop Commissioners involved in the program:

  • Sent letters and information to support 939 farmers using cover crops for the first time
  • delivered information about cover crops to 805 farmers during meetings, workshops and field days
  • connected with 61 agribusiness personnel about cover crops
  • participated in print and radio media interviews about cover crops to readership/listenership of over a half million people.

Conservation Districts of Iowa has been honored to provide farmers with a platform to share their cover crop story with other farmers and is grateful to the National Wildlife Federation for supporting the program again in 2015!

 

Cover Crop Workshop

Mark Glawe speaking with attendees in the field. The clouds parted and the rain stopped just in time to go outside!

Mark Glawe speaking with attendees in the field. The clouds parted and the rain stopped just in time to go outside!

Yesterday, Conservation Districts of Iowa partnered with Iowa Learning Farms and the Clayton County Soil and Water Conservation District to help Mark Glawe share his story with the 42 attendees who showed up to learn more on a rainy Iowa spring day.

Mark is a Clayton County Soil and Water Conservation District Commissioner and a farmer using cover crops since 2004. Mark is using cereal rye and radishes. He has tried red clover in the past and would like to try crimson clover in the future. He has drilled cover crops and applied them aerially as well. Mark is reluctant to use a high boy with his steep ground and tight contours but is looking for a no-till drill.

Mark cited many advantages of using cover crops including increased forage for grazing, increased yields and organic matter, reduced compaction and keeping soil and nutrients in place.

“I have no sheet and rill erosion,” Mark said. “If a 3-inch rain were to come today, I’m not worried. It’s not going to wash. That’s worth a lot.”

Iowa Learning Farms’ Liz Juchems and me in Mark’s field – his farm was beautiful!

Iowa Learning Farms’ Liz Juchems and me in Mark’s field – his farm was beautiful!

Mark added, “It’s different. You just kind of have to change your mindset. It’s amazing what it will do.”

The farmers trying something new, the farmers daring to be different—they are brave. The farmers sharing their story to help others be brave—they are our champions!

Thank you National Wildlife Federation, Iowa Learning Farms, Clayton County SWCD and Iowa Cover Crop Champion Commissioners!

Clare Lindahl

A Cover Crop Snapshot

In the last two weeks, Iowa Learning Farms team members have visited five of our cover crop demonstration sites located on ISU Research Farms to check on spring cover crop growth and prepare our suction lysimeters for water monitoring this spring.

I posted photos from my trip to the Armstrong Research Farm on March 27, but now that we’ve been to each site, I thought it would be interesting to see a snapshot of how our cover crops (specifically, the over-wintering cereal rye) are doing across the state.

Here are the pics in chronological order of our visits:

Armstrong(Lewis)

McNay(Chariton)

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Crawfordsville

Nashua

How are your cover crops doing this spring?  We’d love to see your spring cover crops photos… share with us on Facebook, Twitter, or send via email to ilf@iastate.edu.

Ann Staudt

Submit Your Summer Conservation Station Request Today!

Summer is right around the corner and we are still accepting requests for summer camps, county fairs, library visits, farmers markets and other summer community events.  The Conservation Station trailers will begin to travel the state later this month and we are looking forward to seeing the great state of Iowa and its residents again this summer.

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Our fleet of three Conservation Station trailers plays a central role in our outreach during the months of April – October.   Each trailer in the Conservation Station fleet includes a rainfall simulator, which demonstrates the impacts of land management choices, both urban and agricultural, on water quality and the connections between our soil and water.  Age-appropriate, hands-on interactive activities are included with each trailer.  Request the Conservation Station for your event today by completing the form here!

Check out the video below for a preview of what the Conservation Station fleet has to offer!


If you have any questions about the fleet or submitting a request, please contact Liz Juchems at ejuchems@iastate.edu or 515-294-5429.

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.

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Cereal rye, up close and personal…

 

The

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.

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

 

-Carol Brown

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