New DNR Watershed Positions – Apply Today

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) just announced two new DNR watershed positions for which they are now accepting applications. These positions are to support the Black Hawk Lake and Dry Run Creek Section 319 Watershed Projects PLUS to support source water protection planning and implementation work in adjacent counties surrounding the project locations.


Sac County Job Opportunity:

Position: Environmental Specialist  – Water Quality Bureau

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has a job vacancy for an Environmental Specialist position, within the Watershed Improvement Section of the Water Quality Bureau located in Sac City, IA. This position is responsible for: serving as Watershed Project Coordinator, responsible for planning and implementing water quality improvement project activities, providing technical assistance, and communicating with other project coordinators and stakeholders. 

Job Number:       21-01034
Location:             Environmental Services Division, Water Quality Bureau, Sac City, IA 
Hours:                 M-F, 8 am – 4:30 pm, with some travel and evenings and overnight stays.
Closing Date:      November 9, 2020 – 11:59 p.m. 

For specific job duties, requirements, and application information, visit: Sac County Position


Black Hawk County Job Opportunity:

Position: Environmental Specialist  – Water Quality Bureau

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has a job vacancy for an Environmental Specialist position, within the Watershed Improvement Section of the Water Quality Bureau located in Waterloo, IA. This position is responsible for: serving as Watershed Project Coordinator, responsible for planning and implementing water quality improvement project activities, providing technical assistance, and communicating with other project coordinators and stakeholders.  

Job Number:       21-01033
Location:             Environmental Services Division, Water Quality Bureau, Waterloo, IA 
Hours:                 M-F, 8 am – 4:30 pm, with some travel and evenings and overnight stays.
Closing Date:      November 9, 2020 – 11:59 p.m. 

For specific job duties, requirements, and application information, visit: Black Hawk County Position


Questions can be directed to Allen Bonini, Supervisor, Watershed Improvement Section: allen.bonini@dnr.iowa.gov or 515-725-8392

Virtual Field Day November 5: Exploring Impacts of Cover Crops, Tillage & N-Inhibitors on Crop Performance and Water Quality

Iowa Learning Farms, in partnership with the Iowa Nutrient Research Center, and Conservation Learning Group (CLG), is hosting a free virtual field day exploring impacts of cover crops, tillage and nitrogen-inhibitors on crop performance and water quality on Thursday, November 5th at 1 p.m. CST. Join us for a live conversation with Matt Helmers, Director of the Iowa Nutrient Research Center, Emily Waring, Graduate Research Assistant, and Carl Pederson, Agricultural Specialist in Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering at Iowa State University.

Since 1989, research focused on the effects of nitrogen (N) management on crop production and tile drainage water quality has been conducted in north-central Iowa near Gilmore City. In 2010, the treatments were changed to examine the impacts of cereal rye winter cover crop vs. no rye (with and without tillage), conventional tillage vs. no-till, and timing of N-application and use of nitrification inhibitor. Through extensive data collection and monitoring, the team is measuring the impact of these practices on nitrogen and phosphorus loss and crop yield.

Matt Helmers and Emily Waring at the Gilmore City Research Plots

“This long-term dataset allows us to examine the impacts of conservation practices under a range of weather conditions. We have measured cover crops as an effective practice in reducing N loss from the cropping system,” says Helmers.

To participate in the live virtual field day at 1:00 pm CDT on November 5th, 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

Virtual Field Day October 29: Touring Iowa’s Forests

Iowa Learning Farms, in partnership with the Iowa Nutrient Research Center, and Conservation Learning Group (CLG), is hosting a free virtual field day offering a tour of Iowa’s varied forests on Thursday, October 29th at 1 p.m. CDT. Join us for a live conversation with Billy Beck, Iowa State University Assistant Professor and Extension Forestry Specialist, Joe Herring, Iowa Department of Natural Resources District Forester, and Riggs Wilson, Wildlife Management Institute Forester.

The virtual field day will offer an opportunity to tour common forest types and explore the value they bring to the landscape. From floodplain forests to working trees in a windbreak, trees provide a variety of ecosystem services like wildlife habitat and improved water quality as well as the potential to harvest trees for added economic value. The field day will also highlight the importance of management for long-living, healthy forests.

Billy Beck and Riggs Wilson exploring the oak savanna that will be featured in the virtual field day

“There is often confusion of what management means to maintain a vibrant forest that provides great value to the landowner,” noted Beck. “This field day will explore options for managing a variety of forest types found in Iowa to help landowners identify strategies for doing so on their property.”

To participate in the live virtual field day at 1:00 pm CDT on October 29th, 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

Consider No-Tillage this Fall After Drought

Article originally posted October 19, 2020 by Mahdi Al-Kaisi, professor of agronomy and extension soil and water specialist at Iowa State University, for Integrated Crop Management News and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

The dry, warmer-than-normal growing season this year presents significant challenges for managing soil and crop residue this fall.

Excessively dry soil conditions this season make field preparation and tillage this fall challenging, even though a dry soil condition is preferred for conducting tillage operations. The advantage of having low soil moisture for tillage is a reduced impact of equipment traffic in causing soil compaction and ruts in the field. However, soil disturbance under dry or any other conditions destroys soil structure and increases the potential for soil erosion after any rain events and the loss of soil organic matter, top soil, and nutrients.

The lack of soil moisture, especially in the top 12 inches where most tillage occurs, can produce unfavorable conditions for soil fracturing. The excessive dry soil conditions can produce large soil clods that are not easy to break with secondary tillage in the spring. Also, tilling excessively dry soils can be costly in terms of fuel and time use as compared to soils with normal field moisture at field capacity. The effectiveness of incorporating crop residue may be limited and the lack of moisture will reduce the breakdown of crop residue.

The best option for managing dry soils and crop residue under dry conditions is to limit soil disturbance and keep residue on the soil surface. Crop residue can help mitigate drought conditions by trapping rain and snow moisture to recharge the soil profile for the following season.  It has been documented that keeping residue standing with no-till on the soil surface can trap 70% more of the water in rain or snow melt than conventional tillage. The water storage capacity of soil will be greater than that with conventional tillage, where soil structure is destroyed. Crop residue and tillage consideration for this fall is highlighted in this article: https://crops.extension.iastate.edu/blog/mahdi-al-kaisi/residue-management-consideration-fall

Conservation practices play a major role in managing soil moisture. The absence or reduction of soil disturbance in no-till both minimizes soil moisture loss from the soil’s surface and maximizes soil moisture storage. They also enhance beneficial soil physical properties such as increased water infiltration, maintenance of soil macropores, and reduction of surface runoff during rain events, thus increasing soil moisture storage.

Generally, every tillage pass can cause the loss of 1/4 inch of soil moisture.

However, this number varies based on soil texture, soil organic matter content, and the amount of residue on the soil surface. Thus, with the unpredictability of weather and to insure maximum soil moisture storage, precaution should be exercised in using tillage to manage dry soils this fall, and farmers should keep residue upright on the soil surface to increase the soil profile moisture recharge.

Virtual Field Day October 20: Incorporating Sorghum into the Iowa Crop Rotation

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 the benefits to the soil, water and the atmosphere when sorghum is added to the corn and soybean rotation on Thursday, October 20th at 1 p.m. CDT.

Join us for a live conversation with Andy VanLoocke, Iowa State University (ISU) Associate Professor of Agronomy, ISU post-doctoral researcher associates Kate Glanville and Rojda (Guler) Aslan-Sungur, and ISU graduate student Josh Bendorf.

Rojda (Guler) Aslan-Sungur, ISU post-doctoral researcher associate, collects data from the research station at the SABR Farm near Ames.

At the ISU Sustainable Advanced Bioeconomy Research (SABR) Farm located west of Ames, Dr. VanLoocke’s team is exploring the impacts of adding bioenergy crops like sorghum to the traditional rotation of corn and soybeans grown on most acres in Iowa. Taking a systems approach, the team is closely analyzing the carbon/nitrogen budget or mass budget of sorghum and the impacts on the soil, water and atmosphere.

“This field day and larger research project will take a closer look at how crop rotation, climate and weather effect the corn, soybeans and sorghum differently throughout the year. The goal is to calculate the mass budget and impact of incorporating energy biomass crops like sorghum in the rotation,” commented Vanloocke.

To participate in the live virtual field day at 1:00 pm CDT on October 20th, 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

Free Virtual C-CHANGE Conference October 19: Why are we missing the boat on biogas?

This inaugural C-CHANGE conference will focus on expanding the value chain for Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) from mixed agricultural feedstocks. The conference will be virtual, held on October 19, 2020.

This is virtual conference is free thanks to our supporting sponsors, but registration is still required.

Register Today


What you’ll learn about

The renewable natural gas (RNG) component of biogas is the best-incentivized, fastest growing product in today’s bioeconomy. A value chain based on RNG, if done right, could foster new economic development in rural America while also alleviating concerns for energy security, greenhouse-gas emissions, soil health, climate resilience, water quality, flooding, and wildlife habitat in the Midwestern US and beyond.

This conference focuses on expanding the value chain for RNG by bringing together experts from agriculture, energy, government, science, and society to share knowledge and embark on an ambitious plan to remove barriers impeding the growth of this value chain.

You’ll learn about agricultural feedstocks, anaerobic digestion processes, coproduct valorization, distribution and markets, financing, policy, and societal value.

Agenda Preview


Who should attend?

  • Ag business personnel
  • College students and graduate students
  • Energy industry representatives
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Farmers and farmland owners
  • Government officials
  • Representatives of agricultural, energy, and environmental NGOs
  • Researchers

Sponsors


What are people saying about this conference?

“Developing a biogas industry centered around our agricultural resources is a key strategy of both Iowa’s Energy and Biomass Conversion Action Plans. Biogas projects simultaneously give rise to renewable energy, food production and water management accomplishments through a single investment, and this level of economic development in our state cannot be overlooked. The C-CHANGE Biogas Conference provides an opportunity to bring stakeholders together to build partnerships that can move the industry forward.”

– Debi Durham, Director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority and Iowa Finance Authority

“As the nation’s leader in pork production, Iowa pig farmers take their responsibility of caring for Iowa’s natural resources seriously. The Iowa Pork Producers Association has been engaged with our partners at the Iowa Economic Development Authority to explore alternative energy sources that support nutrient retention, reducing our carbon footprint, and enabling our farmers to continuously improve their sustainability commitments. We hope participants at this year’s C-CHANGE conference find value that they can take home and apply to their businesses.”

– Pat McGonegle, CEO of Iowa Pork Producers Association

“Penn State and Iowa State University scientists are collaborating with agricultural and industry partners to bring cutting edge research to bear on expanding the biogas value chain. The C-CHANGE conference will provide the first look at exciting new results, and also to help set the agenda for the next phase of innovation.”

– Tom Richard, Director of Penn State University Institutes of Energy and the Environment 

“With renewable natural gas, we can create substantial new economic opportunity for
rural America, clean our air and water, and provide habitat for our native wildlife.”

– Rudi Roeslein, Founder and CEO of Roeslein Alternative Energy

“As a lifelong Iowan, I care deeply about soil health, clean water, and economic opportunity in rural Iowa. By growing a vibrant biogas market through good policy, we can meet all three goals.”

– Bryan Sievers, Owner and Operator of Sievers Family Farms
and Founder, AgriReNew

“Meeting the food and nutrition needs of a world population of 10 billion people while maintaining and enhancing our natural resources is one of the single greatest challenges facing our global society in the 21st century. The work that C-CHANGE is spearheading – including the upcoming Conference on Agriculture, Technology and Innovation – is a shining example of the positive impacts Iowa State can make when the university brings together diverse disciplines and perspectives for a shared purpose of innovating better solutions to significant challenges.”

– Wendy Wintersteen, President, Iowa State University


About C-CHANGE Conferences

This conference is first in a series hosted by C-CHANGE, the Consortium for Cultivating Human And Naturally reGenerative Enterprises, is a multisector partnership led by Iowa State University.

2020 C-CHANGE Conference Planning Team

Program:

  • Lisa Schulte Moore, Iowa State University — Conference Chair
  • Bob Riley, Riley Resources Group
  • Bryan Sievers, AgriReNew, Glenora Feed Yard, and Sievers Family Farms
  • Emily Heaton, Iowa State University
  • Rudi Roeslein, Roeslein and Associates and Roeslein Alternative Energy
  • Sean McMahon, Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance
  • Shelly Peterson, Iowa Economic Development Authority
  • Tom Richard, Penn State University

Support:

  • Ali Kraber, Iowa State University, Bioeconomy Institute
  • Bob Mills, Iowa State University, Bioeconomy Institute
  • Aubrey Robertson, Iowa State University, Conference Planning and Management

Virtual Field Day October 15: Mitigating Flooding and Improving Water Quality in the Upper Wapsipinicon Watershed

Iowa Learning Farms, in partnership with the Iowa Nutrient Research Center, and Conservation Learning Group (CLG), is hosting a free virtual field day highlighting public and private partnerships aiming to reduce flooding and improve water quality in the Upper Wapsipinicon River Watershed on Thursday, October 15th at 1 p.m. CDT.

Join us for a live conversation with Tori Nimrod and Ross Evelsizer, Upper Wapsipinicon River Watershed Coordinators with Northeast Iowa Resource Conservation and Development and Luke Monat and Daniel Jensen, engineers at Shive-Hattery Inc. Architecture & Engineering.

Tori Nimrod and Ross Evelsizer, Upper Wapsipinicon River Watershed Coordinators with Northeast Iowa Resource Conservation and Development highlighting one of their projects in Quasqueton

The virtual field day will offer a closer look at a current wetland project in Quasqueton that is designed to reduce flash flows during heavy rainfall events. The small wetland will reduce flows from the capture zone by around 50% during a 100 year flood event or a 6.6 inch rainfall event. A goal for the Upper Wapsipinicon Watershed Management Authority (WMA) is to implement 28 projects on both private and public properties that will help to mitigate flooding in the watershed.   

“Watershed management is a long-term process, and the Upper Wapsipinicon is only in the beginning phases of that process. The projects implemented as a part of the Iowa Watershed Approach Project will help build flood resilience for watershed residents in the future,” noted Nimrod.

To participate in the live virtual field day at 1:00 pm CDT on October 15th, 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

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