Managing Stormwater in the Urban Landscape—Don’t Run Off!

John McMaine, assistant professor and water management engineer extension state specialist at South Dakota State University, was the presenter of the Iowa Learning Farms webinar on Wednesday. During the webinar, McMaine explored urban stormwater management and the effect that low impact development can have on water quantity and quality.

McMaine explained how even small increases in impervious surfaces can have dramatic impacts on how much runoff there is. Water quantity then goes from being infiltration dominated to being runoff dominated, which can also lead to water quality problems.

Urban development leads to an increase in impervious area, which in turn increases peak flow and total water volume. New pollutants are also introduced to the area and there is no barrier that prevents these pollutants from reaching the water bodies. Changes in precipitation and climate can also impact the urban water cycle.

In order to address these issues, structural and non-structural practices can be used. Structural practices include the use of rain gardens, rain collection barrels, permeable pavers, and more. Non-structural practices include maximizing green spaces, minimizing impermeable surfaces, and protecting native soils, among others. While these practices can potentially benefit everyone, it can be difficult to know who is responsible for their implementation and the costs associated.

To learn more about low impact development and urban stormwater management, watch the full webinar!

We have many great webinars available here, including this one from May that discusses specific urban stormwater management practices.

Join us on Wednesday, November 25 at noon for the webinar “Can Moments of Awe and Gratitude Improve the Environment?” presented by Jacqueline Comito, an anthropologist and the director of Iowa Learning Farms.

Hilary Pierce

Finding the Right Fit for Soil Health Practices

Our webinar on Wednesday featured Dr. Abbey Wick, North Dakota State University soil health specialist and associate professor, who shared soil health approaches farmers have used in the northern plains and how they’ve tweaked those approaches to achieve their goals.

Wick explained the importance of creating the right mindset to try out new soil health practices and being willing to adjust the approach in order to meet the on-farm goals. She shared the experiences of farmers who she has worked with, both what practices they’ve tried, and also the lessons that they’ve learned. Some of the lessons learned that were highlighted were:

  • Pick your goal
  • Ask questions
  • Treat cover crop like a cash crop
  • Cover crop by soil texture
  • Find out why something worked or didn’t work
  • Try things out on your worst acres
  • Simple is okay
  • Share what you’re learning with others and get their input

Wick explained these lessons learned, along with many other during the webinar. She also shared some positives results of soil health practices that farmers are seeing, such as improved water management during wet spring and fall periods and noticeable soil health improvements in clay soils.

To learn more about finding the right fit for soil health practices, watch the full webinar here!

Join us next week, on Wednesday November 18 at noon, for a webinar with John McMaine, assistant professor and water management engineer extension state specialist at South Dakota State University, titled “Don’t Run off!—Managing Stormwater in the Urban Landscape.”

Hilary Pierce

November 11 Webinar: Finding the Right Fit for Soil Health Practices

How to create the mind-set needed to evaluate systems and develop a customized approach for adopting soil health practices that meet on-farm goals is the topic of the Iowa Learning Farms webinar at noon on Wednesday, November 11.

There isn’t a prescription for the adoption of soil health practices; it’s more of a pursuit. Farmers find a practice that could accomplish an on-farm goal and then adjust that approach as they learn how it fits their system. Dr. Abbey Wick, North Dakota State University soil health specialist and associate professor, will share approaches farmers have used in the northern plains and how they’ve tweaked those approaches to achieve their goals.

“The use of soil health practices varies by region, by farm and by field—learning how to think through a problem and pull together a set of practices is how new management approaches are successfully adopted on-farm,” said Wick who works alongside farmers, consultants, industry and researchers to come up with both science-based and practical soil health management approaches that can be adopted on-farm with reduced risk.  

Wick emphasized the importance of the thought process around soil health for the successful adoption of practices. She hopes the webinar will help participants think through some ideas to use on their farm, or in their program, research or business.

Webinar Access Instructions

To participate in the live webinar, shortly before 12 pm CST on November 11:

Click this URL, or type this web address into your internet browser: https://iastate.zoom.us/j/364284172

    Or, go to https://iastate.zoom.us/join and enter meeting ID: 364 284 172 

Or, join from a dial-in phone line:

    Dial: +1 312 626 6799 or +1 646 876 9923

    Meeting ID: 364 284 172

The webinar will also be recorded and archived on the ILF website, so that it can be watched at any time. Archived webinars are available at https://www.iowalearningfarms.org/page/webinars.

A Certified Crop Adviser board-approved continuing education unit (CEU) has been applied for, for those who are able to participate in the live webinar. Information about how to apply to receive the credit (if approved) will be provided at the end of the live webinar.

Hilary Pierce

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.

The Halo Effect: Do Short-Term Watershed Project Successes Lead to Long-Term Continued Successes?

Our webinar on Wednesday focused on a project that assessed the long-term continued success of three different voluntary watershed management approaches.

Jamie Benning and Dr. Jacqueline Comito, both with Conservation Learning Group, shared an overview of the project and discussed how the short-term and long-term success of watershed management projects can be assessed. For the project three watersheds where different watershed management projects have been implemented were compared to nearby watersheds that have not had recent watershed management projects.

Slide from Benning & Comito’s presentation showing their criteria for short-term success
Slide from Benning & Comito’s presentation showing their criteria for long-term success

In the summer of 2018, Benning and Comito conducted listening sessions with farmers and landowners in the three watersheds with watershed management projects. During 2019, they surveyed farmers and landowners in the watersheds, and compared each watershed to a nearby, similar watershed. The comparison was done both in terms of resources that farmers and landowners can access and land characteristics.

Their assessment of the success of the watershed projects showed that although the projects had a degree of short-term success, that this did not necessarily translate to long-term success.

The halo effect and watershed projects, slide from Benning & Comito’s presentation

Benning and Comito then asked the webinar participants to consider if it’s possible to build a better watershed project, one that supports both short-term and long-term success. To learn more about this research project, watch the full webinar here!

Join us on Wednesday, October 21 for the webinar “Sustainable Weed Management Solutions for Iowa Corn and Soybean” with Prashant Jha, associate professor and extension weed specialist at ISU.

Hilary Pierce

October 14 Webinar: The Halo Effect: Do Short-Term Watershed Project Successes Lead to Long-Term Continued Successes?

A project that assessed the long-term continued success of three different voluntary watershed management approaches is the topic of the Iowa Learning Farms webinar scheduled for noon on Wednesday, October 14.

Jacqueline Comito

This project, funded by the Iowa Nutrient Research Center, looked at differences in structural practice adoption and through quantitative analysis of practices in the watershed and qualitative assessment of farmers’ attitudes and behaviors toward water quality, conservation and participation in watershed projects.

In order to assess the effectiveness of the three different voluntary watershed management approaches, the team evaluated three sets of comparison HUC 12 watersheds, three HUC 12 watersheds where different watershed projects have been implemented and three nearby HUC 12 watersheds that have not had recent watershed projects.

Jamie Benning

Through mailed surveys and listening sessions, Jamie Benning and Dr. Jacqueline Comito, both with Conservation Learning Group, listened to farmers and landowners in the three watersheds about their current farming practices. Do these watersheds who were successful in the short-term benefit from a “halo effect” in the long-term? Benning and Comito will also discuss recommendations to improve water quality improvement efforts in Iowa.

Conservation Learning Group is a collaborative team to advance training, outreach, and research across land uses and production systems to increase overall sustainability of agricultural and natural systems for multiple generations to come.

To participate in the live webinar, shortly before 12:00 pm CDT on October 14:

Click this URL, or type this web address into your internet browser: https://iastate.zoom.us/j/364284172

    Or, go to https://iastate.zoom.us/join and enter meeting ID: 364 284 172 

Or, join from a dial-in phone line:

    Dial: +1 312 626 6799 or +1 646 876 9923

    Meeting ID: 364 284 172

The webinar will also be recorded and archived on the ILF website, so that it can be watched at any time. Archived webinars are available at https://www.iowalearningfarms.org/page/webinars.

A Certified Crop Adviser board-approved continuing education unit (CEU) has been applied for, for those who are able to participate in the live webinar. Information about how to apply to receive the credit (if approved) will be provided at the end of the live webinar.

Hilary Pierce

Enhancing Monarch Butterfly Conservation in Iowa

Iowa Learning Farms hosted webinar on Wednesday, September 16 about monarch butterfly conservation efforts in Iowa. During the webinar, Steve Bradbury, professor in the Departments of Natural Resource Ecology and Management and Entomology at Iowa State University explained monarch life cycles, migration and population decline. Up to 50% of the population that overwinters in Mexico comes from the corn belt of the US, making it critical to conserve and establish additional monarch habitat in Iowa.

Although year-to-year variability of the the monarch population is to be expected, the overall trend is declining. The concerning decline has been caused by extreme weather, deforestation in Mexico (which has been stabilized), and habitat loss (milkweed and other nectar resources) in the upper Midwest. In order for the population to be sustainable and able to withstand extreme weather events, it needs to occupy six hectares of the forest in Mexico. In order to achieve this, 1.6 billion additional stems (of milkweed and nectar resources) need to be established in the upper Midwest.

The Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium was formed in 2015 to determine Iowa’s part in the establishment of habitat in the upper Midwest. Significant habitat needs to be established in Iowa and the conservation strategy for Iowa breaks out how many acres of habitat need to be established and opportunities to do so without taking acres out of crop production. Grass dominated sites are areas where there is opportunity to establish monarch/pollinator habitat and research is being done on the best way to transform these sites. Bradbury shared lessons learned from the demonstration sites during the webinar.

To learn more about monarchs and monarch conservation efforts in Iowa, watch the full webinar here!

Join us on Wednesday, September 23, for a webinar titled “Iowa Flood Center Floodplain Mapping Programs” presented by Witold (Witek) Krajewski, Director of the Iowa Flood Center.

Hilary Pierce

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

September 16 Webinar: Enhancing Monarch Butterfly Conservation in Iowa

Iowa Learning Farms will host a webinar on Wednesday, September 16 at noon about monarch butterfly conservation efforts in Iowa.    

Steve Bradbury, professor in the Departments of Natural Resource Ecology and Management and Entomology at Iowa State University will provide an overview of monarch butterfly declines over the past two decades, causes of the declines and Iowa’s goal of establishing between 215,000 to 390,000 new acres of monarch habitat in agricultural landscapes over the next decade. Bradbury will also offer approaches for establishing habitat in grass dominated sites, including opportunities to establish habitat in conjunction with the installation of saturated buffers and bioreactors.

“We can grow corn, soybeans, monarchs and improve water quality by stacking conservation and pest management practices,” said Bradbury, whose research and extension efforts address conservation, pest resistance management, and environmental risks and benefits of pesticide use. “Iowa’s monarch conservation and nutrient reduction goals are challenging; however, by integrating practices we can maximize our return on investment.”

To participate in the live webinar, shortly before 12:00 pm CDT on September 16:

Click this URL, or type this web address into your internet browser: https://iastate.zoom.us/j/364284172

    Or, go to https://iastate.zoom.us/join and enter meeting ID: 364 284 172 

Or, join from a dial-in phone line:

    Dial: +1 312 626 6799 or +1 646 876 9923

    Meeting ID: 364 284 172

The webinar will also be recorded and archived on the ILF website, so that it can be watched at any time. Archived webinars are available at https://www.iowalearningfarms.org/page/webinars.

A Certified Crop Adviser board-approved continuing education unit (CEU) has been applied for, for those who are able to participate in the live webinar. Information about how to apply to receive the credit (if approved) will be provided at the end of the live webinar.

Hilary Pierce

Beauty of Conservation Award Winners

There was an amazing response to our Beauty of Conservation photo contest. We had over 130 photos from 56 photographers from all over Iowa and beyond.

Mary Swalla Holmes, a writer and photographer from Polk City, Iowa, contributed her professional expertise to the panel of judges. She commented that she was honored to be a part of the program, and noted, “There were so many wonderful images submitted, in both the adult and youth categories, capturing a wide range of conservation practices, that it was difficult to narrow it down to a few winners. Really we all win when we see the beauty in conservation, in a field, in a stream or in a wildflower. The images reflected the relationships between humans, wildlife and the land in very artistic ways. Thanks to Iowa Learning Farms for this opportunity to see and share the beauty of conservation.”

Below are the top photos in both the youth and adult divisions. All photos entered in the contest can be viewed on the ILF Facebook page by following these links: Adult Category Entries and Youth Category Entries.

Liz Ripley