Incorporating Prairie on the Farm – Field Day June 21st

ISU STRIPS and the UNI Tallgrass Prairie Center will demonstrate the practical use of prairie on a working farm at a field day that will be held 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 21 near Elkader.

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Prairie Strips At Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge

Hosted by Roverud Family Farm, the field day will focus on integrating prairie into row crop fields for sediment and nutrient reduction.  The farm is located at 19575 Sandpit Rd, Elkader.

Other discussion topics include:

  • How to plant prairie on farms
  • Landowner insights
  • Maintenance and weed control
  • Water quality improvement
  • Benefits of prairie on the landscape

There will also be an opportunity to view infield prairie strips and take a field walk following the program.

There is no cost to attend this field day, which includes a complimentary meal with registration. Technical service providers, landowners, farm managers, conservation professionals, and those interested in learning more about the benefits of native vegetation are strongly encouraged to attend.

This event will be held rain or shine. Registration in advance is preferred for meal planning purposes and to be informed of location change in the event of inclement weather. To pre-register, contact Staci Mueller at (319) 273-3866 or staci.mueller@uni.edu by June 18.

For more information, go to www.prairiestrips.org or https:// tallgrassprairiecenter.org/ .

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Carrot vs Stick – Are farmers ready to change?

In a recent article from Civil Eats, author Virginia Gewin, features a couple familiar Iowa faces and asks the tough question – As farm runoff in U.S. Waters hits crisis levels, are farmers ready to change?

Addressing our water quality challenges in Iowa and across the U.S. is a serious undertaking that to-date has primarily used the voluntary approach.  Using incentives or cost share (carrots), there has been slow adoption of conservation practices like cover crops and edge of field practices.  This is where the author poses the question of whether it’s time to impose the ‘stick’ method of regulation.

In the article Sarah Carlson, Practical Farmers of Iowa, discusses the innovative ways Iowa farmers are working with industry groups like Cargill, Pepsi, Unilever and more to implement cover crops through incentives and the challenges of providing a uniform message across sources to help producers successfully implement cover crops.  speaking_pfi-field-day-2016

ILF Farmer Partner, Nathan Anderson, shares how he transitioned cover crops in his area from a curiosity to a serious consideration among his farming neighbors.  “Farmers that I never thought would be asking me for cover crop advice are asking those questions,” said Anderson.

Be sure to check out the full article here! This story is part of a year-long series about the underreported agriculture stories in our rural communities.

Liz Juchems

Extending Crop Insurance Deadline for Cover Crop Termination

Due to late fall establishment of cover crops and the slow start to spring, Sarah Carlson with Practical Farmers of Iowa, has researched and shared three steps to extend the crop insurance deadline for cover crop termination. These steps will help producers address concerns of terminating the cover crops now while they are so small.

Step 1) Check your RMA termination deadline.

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Step 2) Let your crop insurance agent know you’ll be requesting a deviation.

Step 3) Request a termination deviation from your county NRCS office.

For more information on completing each step, check out Sarah’s post here.

Wishing you a safe and happy planting – and cover crop termination season!

Liz Juchems

 

 

Warmer weather and spring rains = cover crop growth!

The warmer weather and recent rains have helped green up our lawns, landscaping and overwintering cover crops like winter cereal rye!

We’ve been tracking the growth in our two Conservation Learning Lab watersheds where cover crops were seeded last fall.  Check out the photos below to see just how much has changed since the snow melted in Story County in March.

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Story County Conservation Learning Lab, March 19-April 30, 2018

With more snow and slower warm up, the Floyd County cover crops are just starting to green up. They have likely doubled in size from when these photos were taken on April 27th.

Meyer

Floyd County Conservation Learning Lab, April 27, 2018

 

Stay tuned for more updates on the Conservation Learning Lab project as we continue to monitor the performance of the cover crops and strip-tillage implementation in the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Project wetland watershed.

Liz Juchems

2018 Spencer Award for Sustainable Agriculture Nominations Now Open

On behalf of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, we encourage you to submit a nomination the 2018 Spencer Award for Sustainable Agriculture.


For the past 17 years, we have been pleased to work with the Spencer family to present this award to deserving Iowans in agriculture. Many of the Spencer Award winners have been farmers who were shining examples of how to use a variety of conservation practices to make their land and operations more sustainable — and leave the land in great shape to pass on to their families. Past Spencer Award winners include an ISU agronomy professor, an extension educator, a research farm manager and a USDA scientist who has been a pioneer in cover crop research and promotion.

What they ALL have in common is a desire to improve Iowa’s landscape, albeit in very different ways. Some lead by example, showing their fellow farmers what will work on their land and how. Others have promoted local food production, organic farm products, or sustainably raised livestock. Some work in the field, others in the lab and still others offer education and mentoring to their peers.

If you know someone who fits into any of these categories (or you are such a person), please consider applying for the 2018 Spencer Award for Sustainable Agriculture.

Please submit the nomination using this electronic form, either as a paper copy mailed to the address below or as an electronic document emailed with Spencer Award in the subject line, to me by June 16, 2018.

Thank you,
Mark Rasmussen

Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture
209 Curtiss Hall
513 Farm House Lane
Iowa State University, Ames, IA  50011-1054
(515) 294-7836
markras@iastate.edu


About the Spencer family
Norm_Marg_roundThe Spencer Award honors the beliefs, innovations and stewardship of Norman and Margaretha Spencer, who farmed near Sioux City for 40 years. It serves as a lasting memorial to the Spencers, who believed that it is the obligation of each generation to leave the world a better and healtheir place for the next generation.

The award was established in 2001 by an endowment from the Spencer family, and is administered by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University. The award includes a $1,000 cash prize.

Read a tribute to Norm and Margaretha Spencer.

Why Field Days Matter

Through our evaluation work since 2004, we have found that there is a relationship between attending field days, adopting conservation practices and influencing other farmers. We call this our Field Day Success Loop.

SuccessLoop

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Iowa Learning Farms has learned the importance of taking a closer look at who among field day attendees is networking with other farmers and discussing conservation ideas. Since 2013, the number of farmers who attended field days and networked conservation ideas with other farmers continues to increase – from 65% in 2013 to 68% in 2017.

A follow-up question on our year-end evaluation asks “How successful were you?,” and asks if farmers were able to influence zero, one, or two or more people when they networked conservation ideas with other farmers. Of those attendees who networked in 2017, 60% reported that they were successful in influencing at least one other person.

We know that some farmers network about conservation ideas and others do not. Certain factors make respondents more likely to connect with others and network about conservation ideas. Those respondents who have more years of experience with cover crops and those who attend more field days are more likely to report networking conservation ideas. Particularly in 2017, respondents who farm a larger number of total acres were more likely to report networking conservation ideas.

Networking

Multiplier Effect

Field day attendees are networking with their peers, influencing farmers who did not attend the field day, thus creating a multiplier effect. In 2017, 68% of farmers who attended an ILF event said that they networked. As a result, farmers are extending influence to 55% more farmers than attended the event. That’s a $1.55 value for every dollar invested in ILF. Field days make sense!

NetworkingInvestment
Keep up to date on upcoming field days in your area by following us on Facebook and Twitter or visiting our events page.

Hope to see you at a 2018 Field Day!

Liz Juchems

 

New online tool helps farmers assess value of cover crops

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, in partnership with Practical Farmers of Iowa, has launched a new Ag Decision Maker tool on their website to help crop and livestock farmers assess the economics of cover crops in their operations.20150428_092027

The Economics of Cover Crops tool consists of three in-depth budgeting worksheets designed to help farmers analyze the costs and benefits of cover crops – and paths to profitability – in their row crop operations with or without the integration of livestock:

  • Cover Crops Budget looks at the economics of cover crops in systems without grazing or harvesting
  • Grazing Cover Crops Budget estimates the costs and benefits with grazing or harvesting for feed
  • Grazing Cover Crops Results uses farmers’ farm data to calculate the actual economic value of grazing or harvesting cover crops from the prior year

The unique three-in-one tool was developed to let farmers see the potential added value they could gain when cover crops are used for forage. Recent Practical Farmers of Iowa on farm research has found that, when properly managed, grazing cover crops can result in sizeable profits within the first year.

The worksheets are available online and were created with funding by Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship’s Water Quality Initiative.

Help available to use the tool

To ensure farmers feel confident using the new tool, Meghan Filbert, Livestock Coordinator with Practical Farmers of Iowa, is available to help farmers gets started. Contact her at (515) 232-5661 or meghan@practicalfarmers.org with questions or to request assistance working with the tool.

Liz Juchems