USDA Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today the awarding of 33 Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG). Iowa Learning Farms is one of those 33 recipients!
The project “Demonstrating Cover Crop Mixtures on Iowa Farmland: Management, Soil Health, and Water Quality Benefits” will be conducted on 15 demonstration farm sites across Iowa. The goal is to evaluate cover crop mixtures and management strategies that will enable farmers to produce successful corn and soybean crops when incorporating cover crops on their farms.
Each demonstration site will compare three plots: a single species cover crop, a mixed species cover crop and no cover crop. Six sites were already planted last month, courtesy of funding from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. With this new CIG, more farm sites will be added across the state.
Iowa Learning Farms program manager Jacqueline Comito is lead Project Investigator (PI) along with ILF co-manager Matt Helmers and ISU agronomist Jamie Benning serving as co-PIs. ILF will work in collaboration with the Iowa Cover Crop Working Group represented by field agronomist Mark Licht with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, Sarah Carlson with Practical Farmers of Iowa, and Tom Kaspar, plant physiologist at the National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment.
Ultimately, we hope that there is an increased use of cover crops in Iowa, whether it is a single species like cereal rye, or a mixture of plants such as oats, Nitro radish and hairy vetch.