September 23 Webinar: Iowa Flood Center Floodplain Mapping Programs

Iowa Learning Farms will host a webinar on Wednesday, September 23 at noon about floodplain mapping done by the Iowa Flood Center.

Following the historic floods of 2008, the State of Iowa established the Iowa Flood Center (IFC) at the University of Iowa’s IIHR–Hydroscience & Engineering. Among its many flood-related activities, IFC develops flood inundation maps to support planning and mitigation efforts across the state. During this webinar, Witold (Witek) Krajewski, Director of IFC, will explain the floodplain mapping and floodplain map libraries created by IFC.

In cooperation with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, IFC developed floodplain maps showing probability, extent, and depth of flooding for every Iowa stream draining more than one square mile. IFC has also developed floodplain map libraries in specific communities that translate National Weather Service forecasts into inundation maps that help individuals anticipate how forecasted flood conditions may affect their property.

Image source: Iowa Flood Center

“Understanding flood risk is important to effectively managing property,” said Nathan Young, Associate Director of IFC. “Floodplain mapping is a valuable tool for anticipating and communicating immediate and long-term flood hazards.”

To participate in the live webinar, shortly before 12:00 pm CDT on September 23:

Click this URL, or type this web address into your internet browser: https://iastate.zoom.us/j/364284172

    Or, go to https://iastate.zoom.us/join and enter meeting ID: 364 284 172 

Or, join from a dial-in phone line:

    Dial: +1 312 626 6799 or +1 646 876 9923

    Meeting ID: 364 284 172

The webinar will also be recorded and archived on the ILF website, so that it can be watched at any time. Archived webinars are available at https://www.iowalearningfarms.org/page/webinars.

A Certified Crop Adviser board-approved continuing education unit (CEU) has been applied for, for those who are able to participate in the live webinar. Information about how to apply to receive the credit (if approved) will be provided at the end of the live webinar.

Hilary Pierce

Enhancing Monarch Butterfly Conservation in Iowa

Iowa Learning Farms hosted webinar on Wednesday, September 16 about monarch butterfly conservation efforts in Iowa. During the webinar, Steve Bradbury, professor in the Departments of Natural Resource Ecology and Management and Entomology at Iowa State University explained monarch life cycles, migration and population decline. Up to 50% of the population that overwinters in Mexico comes from the corn belt of the US, making it critical to conserve and establish additional monarch habitat in Iowa.

Although year-to-year variability of the the monarch population is to be expected, the overall trend is declining. The concerning decline has been caused by extreme weather, deforestation in Mexico (which has been stabilized), and habitat loss (milkweed and other nectar resources) in the upper Midwest. In order for the population to be sustainable and able to withstand extreme weather events, it needs to occupy six hectares of the forest in Mexico. In order to achieve this, 1.6 billion additional stems (of milkweed and nectar resources) need to be established in the upper Midwest.

The Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium was formed in 2015 to determine Iowa’s part in the establishment of habitat in the upper Midwest. Significant habitat needs to be established in Iowa and the conservation strategy for Iowa breaks out how many acres of habitat need to be established and opportunities to do so without taking acres out of crop production. Grass dominated sites are areas where there is opportunity to establish monarch/pollinator habitat and research is being done on the best way to transform these sites. Bradbury shared lessons learned from the demonstration sites during the webinar.

To learn more about monarchs and monarch conservation efforts in Iowa, watch the full webinar here!

Join us on Wednesday, September 23, for a webinar titled “Iowa Flood Center Floodplain Mapping Programs” presented by Witold (Witek) Krajewski, Director of the Iowa Flood Center.

Hilary Pierce

Water Rocks! Debuts Outdoor Classroom Programs

Water Rocks! debuted its outdoor classroom program this week at Mayflower Heritage Christian School September 15 in Creston, Iowa and Aurora Heights Elementary in Newton, Iowa September 16. Responding to the ongoing demand for its educational programming during a pandemic, the Water Rocks! team created a turn-key program which can be delivered at school sites while complying with any ISU, government, or school policies for social distancing and safety.

Somewhat akin to bringing a field trip to the school, Water Rocks! presents grade-level targeted, high-energy, science-based lessons that augment classroom curricula. Both schools selected the Water Rocks! wetlands program and reported positive results.

Water Rocks! visit to Mayflower Heritage Christian School on September 15, 2020.

According to Sue Maitlen, third and fourth grade teacher at Mayflower Heritage, the operation could not have run more smoothly. “They did a wonderful job, setting everything up, keeping everyone socially distanced, and coordinating with the school schedule,” said Maitlen. “They had everything planned to the smallest detail and looked after important measures such as sanitizing between groups, reminding students to keep distanced, and wearing masks throughout the programs. And after the program, the students were excited to talk about what they had learned.”

The Water Rocks! educators have adapted learning materials, teaching methods, hands-on activities and games for socially distanced outdoor learning. Providing everything needed to deliver the programs, Water Rocks! brings chairs, tables, sound amplification equipment and all materials – eliminating demands on the school staff.

Students play habitat hopscotch during the Water Rocks! visit to Aurora Heights Elementary on September 16, 2020.

“Water Rocks! has been bringing science-based educational programming to Iowa schools for more than a decade, and we are committed to continuing to support schools and teachers through these flexible and slightly modified delivery methods,” said Jacqueline Comito, Water Rocks! executive director. “Inside a classroom or auditorium, or outdoors on a playground, engaging students in learning about their environment, water issues and natural resources, is a mission that is crucial to helping build a culture of conservation in Iowa and beyond. We can’t wait to get back to the great indoors, but are heartened by the interest in these programs and may even keep the option open to continue after things return to normal.”

Working outdoors helps ensure compliance with strict restrictions on school visits and field trips many schools are implementing. Water Rocks! relies on its extensive experience with outdoor programming, garnered from its Conservation Station trailer activities in public venues, to deliver a COVID-safe educational experience for all participants.

In closing, Maitlen said, “The Water Rocks! program covers a lot of ground using methods that truly engage the students. I would recommend it to any school or teacher.”

Schools can select from four education modules:

  • Natural Resources (Grades K-2)
  • Watershed (Grades 3-8)
  • Wetlands (Grades 3-8)
  • Pollinators (Grades 4-8)

During the fall 2020 semester, these Water Rocks! programs are provided to schools at no cost, thanks to the generosity of Water Rocks! donors and funding partners.

Teachers and administrators interested in scheduling  or learning more about a free Water Rocks! visit to their school should immediately contact Water Rocks! through its website https://www.waterrocks.org/school-visits

Liz Ripley

It’s a Matter of Trust

Mark Rasmussen | Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture Director

In recent times we have experienced a significant erosion of trust in our society. Intentional obfuscation, half truths and outright lies seem to be an everyday occurrence now. Such deception and dishonestly takes a toll on everyone, from personal interactions to national and international affairs.

Trust and honestly is especially important with respect to our state and federal regulatory agencies. We rely on these organizations to evaluate and approve drugs, medical treatments and chemicals based upon science and a thorough process of due diligence. But when a whiff of politics or influence enters that decision-making process, decades of trust can evaporate very quickly. When trust is lost, lawsuits usually follow.

This is especially relevant in the business of food and agriculture because food is a universal exposure (everyone eats) and because agriculture has such a huge footprint on the landscape. Regulatory decisions regarding food and environmental safety are important not just for humans but also for the rest of the biological world, on field and off.

I have been thinking a lot about what causes the loss of a species. We have all heard news about honey-bee Colony Collapse, and many wait anxiously for annual Monarch butterfly migration numbers. Many explanations try to deflect responsibility by citing a complicated list of factors such as disease, parasites, reproduction, habitat, critical co-species, over-harvesting and social inertia. Unfortunately, other than a few celebrity species in the “going, going, gone” book of life, many don’t get much attention as they quietly fade away.

While many factors have an impact on biodiversity, extinction or survival, I want to focus on one factor that does not get adequate consideration. This involves a complex mix of toxicology, multi-chemical interactions, sub lethal dosages, and off-target environmental consequences. This is where trust in our regulatory agencies is vital. Their decisions are important because the products we use, the medicines we take, and the chemicals we apply ultimately end up in our soil, water, and air. These represent an extensive array of drugs, hormones, cleaners, pesticides and personal care products.

Things get complicated quickly when chemical mixtures are involved. Scientists that work in this area are faced with a complex array of interacting ingredients, many possessing residual biological activity that lingers long after use.

Most undergo regulatory approval as pure compounds, and some information is available on their environmental impacts but often a lot of information is restricted and filed away in confidential regulatory application files. I get very frustrated when I seek out such information and find it is cloaked as confidential.

Only later do we find that someone has identified unanticipated deleterious consequences from use of a chemical that has put some species at risk. Maybe our own. Such surprises happen more frequently than they should. We need our regulatory experts to make evaluations using the best available science free from undue influence. It’s a matter of trust.

If you feel frustrated, I share your frustration. For some, this complicated research process may be cause for despair and surrender to the idea that we can never figure this out, so why try. For others it means; “Forge ahead. We need this product now and we will just assume nature will take care of it.” Others react with a resolute: “Stop now! Ban it”.

None of these positions are particularly helpful. More than ever, we need to be thorough and deliberative in our decisions. We need to double-down on research and knowledge-formation. We need more scientists and more open research on the environmental aspects of multi-chemical interactions. We also need more support for scientists doing this work.

We need the relevant industrial partner to provide metabolic, toxicological and degradation data before a product is released into the environment so there are no surprises. We also need to maintain a little humility. The chemistry of life is vastly complicated. And finally, we need a regulatory system that is not harassed into ignoring science and making inappropriate or premature decisions as a result of political pressure.

Life on earth and our own well-being depends on getting good, timely answers to these complicated questions. The clock is ticking.

Mark Rasmussen, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture Director

Virtual Field Day September 24: Manure Application Considerations During Dry Soil Conditions

Iowa Learning Farms, in partnership with the Iowa Nutrient Research Center, and Conservation Learning Group (CLG), is hosting a free virtual field day focused on best management practices for applying manure in dry soil conditions on Thursday, September 24th at 1 p.m. CDT. Join us for a live conversation with Brian Dougherty, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Field Agricultural Engineer.

Maximizing the nutrient availability and retention of applied manure for the upcoming crops begins with proper handling and application to the land. During dry conditions, it is even more important as those nutrients are especially vulnerable to being flushed from the system during future rain events. Dougherty led a study at the ISU Northeast Research near Nashua to examine the effect of manure application timing and cover crops on yields and drainage water quality. During the virtual event Dougherty will be share results from that project and similar projects, as well as provide best management practices for applying manure for the upcoming crop year.

“This field day will give producers some tips on planning ahead for fall manure applications. We will discuss some challenges specific to applying manure in very dry conditions as well as the benefits of using manure and cover crops together as an integrated system for improving utilization of manure nutrients,” noted Dougherty.

To participate in the live virtual field day at 1:00 pm CDT on September 24th, click HERE or visit www.iowalearningfarms.org/page/events and click “Join Live Virtual Field Day”.

 Or, join from a dial-in phone line:

    Dial: +1 312 626 6799 or +1 646 876 9923

    Meeting ID: 914 1198 4892

The field day will be recorded and archived on the ILF website so that it can be watched at any time. The archive will be available at https://www.iowalearningfarms.org/page/events.

Participants may be eligible for a Certified Crop Adviser board-approved continuing education unit (CEU). Information about how to apply to receive the credit (if approved) will be provided at the end of the live field day.

Liz Ripley

September 16 Webinar: Enhancing Monarch Butterfly Conservation in Iowa

Iowa Learning Farms will host a webinar on Wednesday, September 16 at noon about monarch butterfly conservation efforts in Iowa.    

Steve Bradbury, professor in the Departments of Natural Resource Ecology and Management and Entomology at Iowa State University will provide an overview of monarch butterfly declines over the past two decades, causes of the declines and Iowa’s goal of establishing between 215,000 to 390,000 new acres of monarch habitat in agricultural landscapes over the next decade. Bradbury will also offer approaches for establishing habitat in grass dominated sites, including opportunities to establish habitat in conjunction with the installation of saturated buffers and bioreactors.

“We can grow corn, soybeans, monarchs and improve water quality by stacking conservation and pest management practices,” said Bradbury, whose research and extension efforts address conservation, pest resistance management, and environmental risks and benefits of pesticide use. “Iowa’s monarch conservation and nutrient reduction goals are challenging; however, by integrating practices we can maximize our return on investment.”

To participate in the live webinar, shortly before 12:00 pm CDT on September 16:

Click this URL, or type this web address into your internet browser: https://iastate.zoom.us/j/364284172

    Or, go to https://iastate.zoom.us/join and enter meeting ID: 364 284 172 

Or, join from a dial-in phone line:

    Dial: +1 312 626 6799 or +1 646 876 9923

    Meeting ID: 364 284 172

The webinar will also be recorded and archived on the ILF website, so that it can be watched at any time. Archived webinars are available at https://www.iowalearningfarms.org/page/webinars.

A Certified Crop Adviser board-approved continuing education unit (CEU) has been applied for, for those who are able to participate in the live webinar. Information about how to apply to receive the credit (if approved) will be provided at the end of the live webinar.

Hilary Pierce

Lessons From the Derecho: Addressing Storm Damage and Working Towards Resilient Forest and Tree Resources

Iowa Learning Farms hosted a webinar on Wednesday about storm damage to forests and urban trees caused by the derecho in August. Billy Beck, Extension Forestry Specialist and Assistant Professor in the Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management at Iowa State University, explained how this damage can be assessed and addressed to create more resilient forest and tree resources in the future.

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Storm-damaged forests create dangerous situations and it’s important to take safety precautions and leave any work outside of your skill set to professionals. When assessing storm-damaged forests, Beck suggests creating a map of the damage and consulting with a forester on the best way to address the damage. There may be some trees that can be monitored instead of removed depending on the type and extent of damage.

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It’s also extremely important to assess forests and trees for damage before the next disaster. Doing so can help prevent extensive damage. Many trees that were damaged in the derecho should have already been removed, due to issues caused by improper placement, pruning, or planting. These issues made the trees more susceptible to being damaged in the storm.

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When considering replacing trees or planting new, it’s important to consider the lessons learned from the aftermath of the derecho. It’s important when planting trees to match the species to the site, thinking first about soils, space, wind, wound potential, and hazards, and then selecting trees that meet your objectives from suitable species. Planting native trees and diverse mixes of trees, as well as ensuring proper planting and care, can help create resilient tree resources.

To learn more about assessing and addressing tree damage and creating more resilient tree and forest resources, watch the full webinar here! Click here for a list of resources compiled by Beck for this webinar.

Join us on Wednesday, September 16th at noon for a webinar titled “Enhancing Monarch Butterfly Conservation in Iowa” presented by Steve Bradbury, professor in the Departments of Natural Resource Ecology and Management and Entomology at Iowa State University.

Hilary Pierce

Midwest Cover Crop Council Launches Updated Cover Crop Selector Tools

The Midwest Cover Crop Council (MCCC) Cover Crop Decision Tools are web-based systems to assist farmers in selecting cover crops to include in field crop and vegetable rotations.

The Cover Crop Decision Tools are an initiative by the MCCC to consolidate cover crop information by state to help farmers make cover crop selections at the county level. Information for each state/province is developed by a team of cover crop experts including university researchers, Extension educators, NRCS personnel, agriculture department personnel, crop advisors, seed suppliers and farmers. The team reviewed and refined information from the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE)  publication Managing Cover Crops Profitably, 3rd edition to refine application within their state/province. The information and ratings contained in the Cover Crop Decision Tool is the team consensus based on literature, research results, on-farm experience and practical knowledge.

Decision Tool Q&A Webinar

Wednesday, September 23rd at Noon Eastern / 11:00 am Central

Join MCCC for an in-depth look at the revised decision tool with Babak Saravi, Ian Kropp with the Decision Support and Informatics Lab of Michigan State University and Dean Baas and Anna Morrow with the Midwest Cover Crops Council.

This webinar will be recorded and posted here for later viewing.

Register Here

Liz Ripley

September 9 Webinar: Lessons From the Derecho: Addressing Storm Damage and Working Towards Resilient Forest and Tree Resources

Iowa Learning Farms will host a webinar on Wednesday, September 9 at noon about how to assess and address storm damage to both forest and urban trees caused by the August derecho.   

The derecho caused extensive damage across the state, to buildings, crops, and trees. This webinar will focus on the storm damage to forests and urban trees, and how this damage can be evaluated and managed to create more resilient forest and tree resources.

Billy Beck, Extension Forestry Specialist and Assistant Professor in the Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management at Iowa State University, will also provide tips on creating more storm-ready urban and rural forest canopies. Recovery resources for both rural forest landowners and urban residents will be covered.

“Landscape and forest trees provide critical social, economic, and environmental benefits to all Iowans, and the derecho produced devastating impacts to these resources,” said Beck. “Whether you suffered damage to trees in your yard, or your 100-acre forestland, this webinar seeks to assist on the road to recovery.” Beck’s research and extension work focuses on the impacts that trees, forests, and forestry have on water quality and quantity within the agricultural Midwest.

To participate in the live webinar, shortly before 12:00 pm CDT on September 9:

Click this URL, or type this web address into your internet browser: https://iastate.zoom.us/j/364284172

    Or, go to https://iastate.zoom.us/join and enter meeting ID: 364 284 172 

Or, join from a dial-in phone line:

    Dial: +1 312 626 6799 or +1 646 876 9923

    Meeting ID: 364 284 172

The webinar will also be recorded and archived on the ILF website, so that it can be watched at any time. Archived webinars are available at https://www.iowalearningfarms.org/page/webinars.

A Certified Crop Adviser board-approved continuing education unit (CEU) has been approved, for those who are able to participate in the live webinar. Information about how to apply to receive the credit will be provided at the end of the live webinar.

Hilary Pierce

Long-Term Impacts of 4R Nitrogen Management Practices and Cover Crops on Nitrate-N Loss

Iowa Learning Farms hosted a webinar on Wednesday about the impacts of nitrogen management practices and cover crops on downstream nitrate-N loss. Matt Helmers, Director of the Iowa Nutrient Research Center, explained long-term research that monitors drainage water quality at five sites throughout Iowa. The 4Rs of nitrogen management discussed during the webinar are right source, right rate, right time, and right place.

Corn yield at one of the research sites, comparing fall, spring, split, and no nitration application over five years (image from Helmers’ presentation)

Helmers shared results of the corn yield comparing fall, spring, split, and no nitrogen application over five years at one of the study sites. There was no statistical difference between the yields when nitrogen was applied (with lower yields when there was no nitrogen applied). Applying nitrogen closer to when crops take it up has the potential to reduce nitrogen loss. Flow-weighted nitrate-N concentrations for the corn and soybean phases over 2015-2018 are shown below.

Timing of swine manure application and use of a cover crop was studied at another one of the research sites. Increased loss of nitrate-N when injecting manure soon after soybean harvest was seen, but this loss could be mitigated by using a cover crop. There was a benefit to late fall manure application to both nitrate-N loss and corn yield seen as well.

Flow-weighted nitrate-N concentration comparing swine manure application timing and cover crop use, 2016-2019 (image from Helmers’ presentation)

Helmers shared a 10-year summary of nitrate-N loss that compared continuous corn, continuous corn with a cover crop, prairie and fertilized prairie. He also discussed the impacts of dry conditions on nitrate-N loss, showing data from 2013, the year after the drought of 2012, which saw an increase in nitrate-N loss. Cover crops were shown to reduce the nitrate-N loss and could be effectively used following dry periods.

To learn more about this research, watch the full webinar here!

Join us next week for a webinar with Billy Beck titled “Lessons From the Derecho: Addressing Storm Damage and Working Towards Resilient Forest and Tree Resources”. Beck is the Extension Forestry Specialist and Assistant Professor in the Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management at Iowa State University

Hilary Pierce