Are Cattle Really Wrecking the Planet?

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Yesterday, Dr. Mark Rasmussen posed the question, “are cattle really wrecking the planet?” during his Iowa Learning Farms webinar. He went on to discuss ruminant nutrition and feeding practices, and how ruminant production can be linked with crop diversity, soil health, climate and sustainable agriculture.

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Global atmospheric methane has increased steadily over the last decade, and while there are many sources of methane, ruminant livestock are usually linked to the increase in this greenhouse gas. Ruminants are able to break down coarse forage, such as corn stover or straw, due to microorganisms that live in their gut, but during this process methane is produced. Methane is an energy loss to the host animal, so ruminant nutritionists have been trying to figure out how to capture that energy and reduce the amount of energy lost.

Wolf et al 2017 Global Methane

Figure from Wolf et al. (2017): “Total livestock methane emissions in 2011, downscaled to 0.05 × 0.05° resolution, for the globe (a) and detail for the western US (b)”

Feeding cattle starch, such as corn, will result in the animal growing faster and there will be less methane produced, meaning less energy lost. Researchers have also found that different breeds of cattle produce different amounts of methane and are exploring the possibility of selective breeding to reduce methane production. Recently, better models have been produced that can be used to predict methane production in ruminants. Other research has explored the possibility that ruminants could be a net sink of carbon with proper management and the use of rotational grazing.

If you want to learn more about the effect ruminant nutrition can have on greenhouse gas production and the current research trends, watch the full webinar here.

Join us live for the next Iowa Learning Farms webinar on April 17 at 12:00 pm when Dr. Jerry L. Hatfield (Laboratory Director and Supervisory Plant Physiologist, USDA-National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment) will discuss the topic “Why Improving the Soil Will Pay Dividends”.

Hilary Pierce

March 20 Webinar: Are Cattle Really Wrecking the Planet?

ILFHeader(15-year)Join us on Wednesday, March 20th at noon, when Iowa Learning Farms will host a webinar with Dr. Mark Rasmussen, Director of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, about the role of livestock in sustainable agriculture.

RasmussenM33This webinar will focus on ruminant nutrition and feeding practices, and how ruminant production can be linked with crop diversity, soil health, climate and sustainable agriculture. Rasmussen will also discuss the strengths and weaknesses of production practices and current economics.

“The role of livestock in sustainable agriculture is misunderstood,” said Rasmussen, whose expertise extends to many areas of agriculture, agricultural microbiology, animal health and nutrition. He hopes that webinar viewers will gain a better understanding of the many benefits of forage-based agriculture.

Don’t miss this webinar!
DATE: Wednesday, March 20, 2019
TIME: 12:00 p.m.
HOW TO PARTICIPATE: www.iowalearningfarms.org/page/webinars and click the link to join the webinar

More information about this webinar is available at our website. If you can’t watch the webinar live, an archived version will be available on our website:
https://www.iowalearningfarms.org/page/webinars.

Hilary Pierce

Farmed Prairie Potholes: Consequences & Management Options

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Yesterday, during an Iowa Learning Farms webinar, Amy Kaleita discussed current research being carried out at Iowa State University on the hydrology, water quality implications and management options of prairie potholes in Iowa farm fields.

Prairie potholes are enclosed depressions with no natural drainage, until a spill point is reached, that retain water for some portion of the year. Forty-four percent of the Des Moines Lobe drains to potholes and they are a common feature in row crop fields. Potholes are a nuisance to farmers because they are usually the last places in the field to dry out and spring rains can cause ponding in the potholes, which can drown young row crops in as few as 3-5 days (for total yield loss).

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Despite efforts to drain potholes using subsurface drainage systems (95-99% of potholes in Iowa are drained), there has been very little research done on the effectiveness of these drainage systems for potholes. In less than ideal conditions, water can actually enter the pothole through the drainage system instead of leaving the depression. Potholes also have water quality implications due to having higher soil nitrate stocks than uplands and studies have shown an increase in dissolved reactive phosphorus concentration in potholes over the course of an inundation event.

Management solutions that are being studied include conservation tillage, retirement of the pothole, planting the pothole with flood tolerant crops and improving pothole drainage. These solutions are being tested using a small watershed model, which is calibrated to reflect the monitored conditions and then changed to reflect the new management practices. Upcoming data results will show the effects of management changes on the studied potholes, some of which are being changed to grass, while others will remain in row crops. 

If you’re interested in learning more about the research being done at Iowa State on prairie potholes in farm fields, you can watch the full webinar here.

Join us live for the next Iowa Learning Farms webinar on March 20 at 12:00 pm when Dr. Mark Rasmussen (Director, Leopold Center) will discuss the topic “Are Cattle Really Wrecking the Planet?”.

Hilary Pierce

February 20 Webinar: Farmed Prairie Potholes – Consequences & Management Options

ILFHeader(15-year)On Wednesday, February 20th at noon Iowa Learning Farms will host a webinar with Dr. Amy Kaleita, Professor of Agricultural & Biosystems Engineering at Iowa State University about the consequences of farming prairie potholes and management options for these common Iowa landscape features.

feb webinar potholeskyIn Iowa, many of the features known as prairie potholes are actively farmed. Because of their position in the landscape and their topographic and soils characteristics, prairie potholes flood frequently after rain events, even with artificial drainage. Kaleita will explain this flooding behavior, and the effects it has on crops and watersheds. She will also discuss options for managing these features to decrease the frequency of negative impacts.

“Some research has shown that farmed prairie potholes lose money more often than they make a profit. Because they also have significant environmental impacts, conservation-minded management of these features may provide benefits at a lower cost than changes in more productive parts of the field,” said Kaleita, whose research on precision conservation focuses on how to use publicly available or low-cost data to improve conservation decision-making within production agriculture.

Don’t miss this webinar!
DATE: Wednesday, February 20, 2019
TIME: 12:00 p.m.
HOW TO PARTICIPATE: www.iowalearningfarms.org/page/webinars and click the link to join the webinar

More information about this webinar is available at our website. If you can’t watch the webinar live, an archived version will be available on our website:
https://www.iowalearningfarms.org/page/webinars.

Hilary Pierce

A Huge Thank You!

ILFHeaderOn behalf of the Iowa Learning Farms team, I would like to thank all of our hosts, speakers and partners for an awesome 2018 Field Day season. This year our 24 field days and workshops were attended by 1,134 farmers, landowners, government employees, students and educators, media and agribusiness staff. The topics covered included: cover crops, grazing cover crops, soil health, strip-till/no-till, bioreactors and other edge of field practices, water quality, Emerging Farmers and events for women landowners.  Implementing these practices on our landscape is so important in helping us reach our Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy goals.

Keep an eye out for mail from us this January! We will be mailing a brief survey to all farmers/operators and landowners who attended an ILF-sponsored field day or workshop.

Be sure to check out our events page on our website to attend a 2019 event near you.

Hilary Pierce

 

Meet Our Newest Team Member

CLGHeaderIMG_3274Hi! I’m Hilary Pierce and I’m a new Extension Outreach Specialist at Iowa State University. I’ll be working with the Conservation Learning Group on their programs Iowa Learning Farms and Water Rocks! and with Iowa Watershed Approach.

I have undergraduate degrees in English & History from Queen Mary, University of London and Environmental Science from Iowa State University. Although I grew up in Pennsylvania, I’ve been living in the Midwest for the past 7 years.

After graduating from Iowa State, I spent a year serving as an AmeriCorps*VISTA with an environmental education organization in northwest Michigan. It was a great program, where I got to teach students and members of the public about Lake Michigan and the importance of protecting the Great Lakes, and learn about sailing (we taught our programs on a traditionally rigged schooner).

I am nearly finished with a master’s degree (pending a successful thesis defense!) from the University of Minnesota in Natural Resources Science and Management, with a specialization in Forest Hydrology and Watershed Management. My thesis research looked at the effect of stream channel incision on the depth to shallow groundwater in riparian corridors throughout the Minnesota River Valley.

When I’m not working with ISU Extension or on finishing my thesis, I love hiking, traveling, watching movies and swimming. I’m looking forward to meeting you all at outreach events and WMA meetings – please come say hi to me if you see me around!

Hilary Pierce