June 20 Webinar: Creating Conservation Legacies Through Farm Leases


Watch the Iowa Learning Farms webinar on June 20 at 12:00 p.m. Sara Berges, project coordinator with the Allamakee Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD)will share information about how to leave a conservation legacy by writing conservation into farm leases and how to incorporate cover crops on acres with manure application.

Berges is currently funded through a grant with the Leopold Center which allows her to work with landowners to add conservation in farm leases by updating conservation plans. As an extension of this work, she helps producers write Legacy Reports that document their conservation efforts and goals for their land. Another part of the project involves helping producers figure out how to include cover crops on acres that have manure application.

“Conservation is often left out of lease discussions, but it is vital for ensuring that the land is able to be farmed for years to come,” Berges commented. “I want people to look outside the conservation box, start with a conversation, and brainstorm about what can work and why.”

DATE: Wednesday, June 20, 2018
TIME: 12:00 p.m.
HOW TO PARTICIPATE: Log on as a guest shortly before 12:00 p.m.:

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 If you can’t watch the webinar live, an archived version will be available on our website: https://www.iowalearningfarms.org/page/webinars.

Meet Our 2018 Water Resources Interns!

We would like to warmly welcome our new crew of interns for the 2018 summer outreach season! These students come from farms across Iowa and Missouri and are ready to share their knowledge with you. Stop by our trailers this summer and say hi. Catch our interns at your local county fairs, farmers markets, field days and more.

For a full list of summer events, see our website. The interns will also be playing a role in field work and data collection for research projects with Iowa State University’s Ag Water Management research group.


Pictured above from left to right: Wyatt Kaldenberg, Taylor Kuehn, Kaleb Baber, Donovan Wildman and Dawn Henderson

Wyatt Kaldenberg is from a family farm near Indianola in south central Iowa and is majoring in finance at Iowa State. He will be a junior this fall.

Taylor Kuehn is from a family farm near New Hampton in northeast Iowa and majoring in agricultural studies at Iowa State. She will be a senior this fall.

Kaleb Baber grew up on a family farm near Weston, Missouri, just north of Kansas City. He is pursuing a degree in agronomy and a minor in geology at Iowa State. Kaleb will be a senior this fall. We are thrilled to have Kaleb back with our program for a second summer!

Donovan Wildman is from a family farm near West Branch in east central Iowa and is majoring in agricultural and biosystems engineering (land and water resources engineering option) and minoring in agronomy at Iowa State. He will be a sophomore this fall.

Dawn Henderson is from a family farm near Marcus in northwest Iowa. She is majoring in agronomy and will be heading into her senior year at Iowa State this fall.

We are happy to have our interns on board! Watch for their social media posts on Iowa Learning Farms and Water Rocks! pages as well as their reflections on their internship experience on our blog.


Webinar Recap: Farmer and Farm Management Expert Discusses Cover Crops and Farm Leases

s5-sampson-042418-121-e1525362676924.jpgCover crops have taken off in Iowa over the years, but there are lingering questions about how to best incorporate the practice on rented farmland. Who pays for the practice? What are the short- and long-term benefits and costs to consider? How do you capture the arrangement in a farm lease?

Charles Brown joined us this week in our monthly Iowa Learning Farm webinar series to cover frequently asked questions about cover crops as part of a farm lease arrangement. He shared his unique perspective as both an Iowa State University Extension Farm Management Specialist and as a farmer himself who uses cover crops in Wapello County.

Why Add Cover Crops to Your Farmland?
Cover crops are an important tool to help reduce soil erosion and nutrient losses while also improving soil health. On rented land, questions arise about how to account for short-term costs for cover crop seed and application and the long-term benefits to the land. Charles shared some of his experiences as a farmer in Wapello County, including his yield bump he has experienced with corn following cover crops in 2017.

“Adjoining fields or fields within a half mile made 95 bushel to the acre, 110 and 130. That field made 170. Now whether that’s because of the cover crops, no-till, was I just luckier than the rest of them, I don’t know. It’s probably a combination of all of those things.”

“I have not seen any yield reduction because of using cover crops. As a matter of fact, I’d probably say the opposite in my experience over the past five years.”

What Should You Consider When Writing a Farm Lease with Cover Crops?
Charles recommended looking at the most recent 2018 Cash Rental Survey from Ag Decision Maker for average cash rental rates in your area. In addition:

  • Use written leases over verbal agreements
  • Farm land according to conservation plan (often on file at FSA office)
  • Landlord should receive a copy of production records, fertilizer invoices and soil tests when they are taken each year to make decisions about land productivity and maintenance

Refer to the webinar for specific recommendations and best practices. More information is included about how to handle the cost of seeding cover crops, whether to reduce the rent to share the costs and other considerations.

Here are links to a few resources that Charles mentioned during the webinar.

CharlesWatch the archived version of the webinar now! There is great information for landlords, tenants and anyone who works in the industry.

Julie Winter

Learn How to Add Cover Crops to Your Farm Lease: Watch the Webinar on May 16

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Watch the Iowa Learning Farms webinar on May 16 at 12:00 p.m. to learn more about how cover crops can be incorporated into a farm lease arrangement. Cover crops are an important tool to help reduce soil erosion and nutrient losses while also improving soil health.

On rented land, adding a conservation practice like cover crops involves the cooperation of both the landowner and tenant. Common questions arise in this situation, including who pays for the practice, how the agreement should be documented and long-term benefits to consider.

Charles Brown, Farm Management Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, will share best practices for adding cover crops to a farm lease arrangement. Don’t miss it!

DATE: Wednesday, May 16, 2018
TIME: 12:00 p.m.
HOW TO PARTICIPATE: Log on as a guest shortly before 12:00 p.m.:

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.

Julie Winter

Request the Conservation Station On the Edge Trailer for Your Next Event!

Have you heard of a saturated buffer or bioreactor, but aren’t sure how they work to reduce nitrate loss? Are you curious about installing them on your farm or in your watershed?

To help answer those questions and more we are excited to announce the launch of our newest Conservation Station – On The Edge!

The Conservation Station On The Edge features a saturated buffer and bioreactor model to demo the edge of field practices and discuss how they reduce nitrate entering Iowa’s water bodies through the natural nitrate removal process.

Designed for farmers and landowners, this new trailer is available to request for your upcoming field day, workshop or community event. It is staffed by the Iowa Learning Farms team, offered free of charge and is available for single-day events. Trailer availability begins June 1, 2018.

Request the Conservation Station On The Edge today by emailing Liz Juchems at ejuchems@iastate.edu

CS On the Edge

From the Archives: Conservation Chat Podcast with Amy Kaleita

The Conservation Chat podcast is taking a break for the next few months, but I would like to take you back through our archives on a tour of the “Best of the Conservation Chat Podcast.” There are 38 great podcast episodes to choose from – what’s your favorite?

conservationchat-kaleitaangleThis month, we’re featuring Conservation Chat Episode 27 with Dr. Amy Kaleita. Kaleita is an Associate Professor in Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering and researches information technology and precision conservation. In a world of big data, scientists like Kaleita are now able to collect huge data sets in order to understand incredibly broad and variable concepts.

“In an agricultural context, there are so many sources of unexplained variability . . . things that you do on the landscape that cause results, but they cause different responses under different conditions, and so how do those conditions change over time and space?”

We may not be able to control things like the rain and the temperature, but we are getting closer to understanding how to adapt our management plans under variable conditions that are out of our control.

As Kaleita say, “Knowing is half the battle.” Kaleita’s enthusiasm is contagious – we hope that you make time to listen to this podcast episode and hear more about the future of big data, precision technology and its application to agriculture and conservation.

Julie Winter

Webinar Recap: Dan Jaynes Provides Updates on Saturated Buffers

Dan Jaynes, Research Soil Scientist with the National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment (USDA-ARS), hit the high points on saturated buffers last week in the latest Iowa Learning Farms webinar. Watch the archived version now.

Saturated Buffer Effectiveness and Price Per Pound of N Removed
Saturated buffers can divert about half of the water coming out of a tile outlet (red bars). From this diverted water, the practice can remove between 8-84% of N (blue bars). Saturated buffers costs about $1 per pound of N removed. The practice ranks similarly to other nitrate reduction edge-of-field practices. A comparison table is shown below.


Recent Updates to the Conservation Practice Standard
See the most recent conservation practice standard for a saturated buffer here. Watch the presentation to hear the discussion on specific changes.

Saturated Buffer Design
Saturated buffers should be designed to treat 5% of the drainage system capacity, or asDesign much as is practical based on the available length of the vegetated buffer. To determine the drainage system capacity, use this excellent tool from the Illinois NRCS. Option 1 (determining capacity using slope and diameter) is the most common option used if limited information is available on the drainage system.

Frequently Asked Questions You Should Know
If you field questions from producers about saturated buffers, make sure you know the answers to these commonly asked questions. Dan covered his list of FAQs:

  • Are we trading a water quality problem for an air quality problem?
  • Does denitrification account for all of the nitrate lost?
  • How wide should the buffer be?
  • What should the buffer vegetation be?
  • What about multiple distribution pipes?
  • What about roots plugging distribution pipes?

Roots Plugging Distribution Pipes
On the issue of whether roots plug distribution pipes, Jaynes says that, generally, the answer is no. For a more in-depth look, here is a great video of a look inside a saturated buffer distribution pipe.

To learn more about site suitability for saturated buffers in your local area, explore the ACPF Saturated Buffer Viewing Tool. The suitability of an area in central Iowa is included below. This can be a great tool to determine potential saturated buffer sites (followed by a trip to ground-truth site conditions).

Sat buffer-horz

If you want to learn the latest information about saturated buffers, tune in to the archived webinar!

Julie Winter