April 21 Webinar: Benefits of Organic Farming in Terms of Soil and Water Quality

Soil health and water quality benefits associated with organic farming will be the topic of the Iowa Learning Farms webinar at noon on Wednesday, April 21.

Dr. Kathleen Delate, professor in the departments of agronomy and horticulture at Iowa State University, will share research results that show greater soil and water quality benefits in organic systems with longer crop rotations, when compared to conventional corn-soybean rotations. Small grains and perennial legume species, like alfalfa, are integral to supporting greater soil microbial populations and aggregate stability. Certified organic production requires the use of slower-release forms of nitrogen, which are associated with less nitrate loading and improved water quality.

“Returns have been negative in conventional row crop farming in recent years—alternatives that consist of longer crop rotations with lower inputs and improved soil and water quality need to be explored,” said Dr. Delate, who is responsible for research, extension, and teaching in organic agriculture at Iowa State University. “Give organics a go. You might be surprised to see how your soil changes and how many more pollinators and beneficial insects show up on your farm!”

Webinar Access Instructions

To participate in the live webinar, shortly before 12 pm CDT on April 21:

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 will be provided at the end of the live webinar.

Hilary Pierce

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig Webinar

Iowa Learning Farms hosted a webinar on Wednesday with Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig. Secretary Naig discussed conservation adoption successes, water quality initiatives, and his vision for expanding a culture of conservation in Iowa during the webinar.

Even with the difficulties posed by the pandemic, 2020 was a record year for conservation adoption in Iowa. Secretary Naig explained that the success of soil health and water quality initiatives will depend on a multi-faceted approach, which will take into account the diverse landscapes across the state. He also discussed scaling up rural and urban Iowa Water Quality Initiative projects. Secretary Naig highlighted that 44 wetlands were under development in 2020, when it had previously taken about 15 years to build 100 wetlands across the state. In 2020 there were also 45 bioreactors and saturated buffers under development and 2.18 million acres of cover crops planted.

To learn more about Secretary Naig’s vision for conservation and water quality in Iowa, watch the full webinar!

Join us on Wednesday, April 14 for the webinar, “Cyclone Soil Health Sweepstakes Showcase.”

Hilary Pierce

April 7 Webinar: Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig

Iowa Learning Farms will host a webinar on Wednesday, April 7 at noon with Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig.

Secretary Naig will discuss conservation, water quality, and his vision for Iowa during the webinar. He will also discuss the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy and explain how Iowans are working to meet the nitrogen and phosphorus loss reductions outlined in the Strategy.

Webinar participants will be able to submit questions for Secretary Naig during the webinar through the Zoom software.

Webinar Access Instructions

To participate in the live webinar, shortly before 12 pm CDT on April 7:

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.

Hilary Pierce

When, Where and Why Soil Erosion Occurs and When, Where and How Do We Control It

The Iowa Learning Farms webinar on Wednesday featured Rick Cruse, professor at Iowa State University and director of the Iowa Water Center, discussing soil erosion and how to control it. Cruse explained that the impacts of soil erosion, including negative effects on soil productively, water quality, economics, and food security, will be amplified as a less friendly climate evolves. This makes addressing soil erosion important, and determining when and where soil erosion occurs is critical to identifying best management options for limiting soil loss.

Soil erosion in fields means the movement of soil from the hillside’s side slope to the base of the hillside, which negatively impacts yield on the side slope where soils are thin. There is yield loss and more yield variability with thin soils. This erosion occurs because of disturbance due to water and tillage and has both a spatial and temporal element. The amount of soil erosion that occurs varies each year depending on conditions. In order to address the issue of soil erosion, a systems-based approach is needed.

Cruse showed animations of how conservation practices could reduce soil erosion, including the strategic placement of switchgrass on hillslopes and the adoption of no-tillage. Both of these practices would lessen the amount of soil erosion occurring. The date of tillage and planting also has an impact on soil erosion—as the tillage date is delayed, the soil erosion rate goes up. This is due to the vulnerability window of the soil after tillage moving later, to when there is more risk of higher precipitation amounts. Multiple conservation practices and planting date management will be needed to effect change if soil conservation is the goal.

To learn more about soil erosion and how we can control it, watch the full webinar!

Join us next week for a presentation about conservation and water quality in Iowa with Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig.

Hilary Pierce

Incorporating Conservation Practices Into Your Farm Lease

During the Iowa Learning Farms webinar on Wednesday, Charles Brown, farm management specialist, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, discussed the importance of conservation practices and what landowners should include in their lease to protect their farmland. Brown shared his own experience of using cover crops on his farm in Wapello County and the benefits of the practice, including weed management and improved soil health.

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When considering including conservation practices, like cover crops, in a lease agreement, the landlord and the tenant need to discuss their options and come up with a course of action. The landlord should decide what they could do to encourage the use of conservation practices on their land, such as longer leases for tenants who plan to use cover crops or other conservation practices. Together with the tenant, they also need to determine a backup plan and who will pay for conservation practices. Another consideration is a clause in the lease agreement for depreciating costs of practices, particularly in cases where the tenant may be paying for practice installation. Brown emphasized the importance of having a written lease agreement and highlighted several key sources of additional information:

To learn more about incorporating conservation practices into a farm lease, watch the full webinar!

Join us on Wednesday, March 24 at noon for the webinar “Economic Considerations on Cover Crop Adoption,” presented by Alejandro Plastina, associate professor and extension economist at Iowa State University.

Hilary Pierce

March 17 Webinar: Incorporating Conservation Practices Into Your Farm Lease

The Iowa Learning Farms webinar on Wednesday, March 17 at noon, will focus on how to incorporate conservation practices into a farm lease agreement.  

Charles Brown, farm management specialist, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, will discuss the importance of conservation practices and what landowners should include in their lease to protect their farmland. Participants will learn how costs may be shared for certain conservation practices.

“Every landowner should be concerned about our water quality and soil erosion,” said Brown. “Conservation practices can be a win/win for both the landowner and the tenant.”

As an extension farm management specialist, Brown works with farmers to construct farm leases and protect their farmland. He also uses conservation practices on his own farm.

Webinar Access Instructions

To participate in the live webinar, shortly before 12 pm CST on March 17:

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 will be provided at the end of the live webinar.

Hilary Pierce

The Conservation Station Fleet Rolls Again!

GOOD NEWS: Our fleet of Conservation Station trailers will be rolling again this summer! Now is the time to start thinking about spring and summer events that would be enhanced by a visit from one of our trailers. Visits from a Conservation Station trailer are available free of charge and are a great addition to county fairs, farmers markets, festivals, and other community events. Activities are being adapted to ensure that they can be delivered safely and effectively.

The Conservation Station’s online request system for spring and summer 2021 is now open and accepting requests. Submit your request by Monday, March 22 for priority consideration.

Did you say free?
Yes! The Conservation Station trailers are available to participate in events free of charge. Many thanks to our Iowa Learning Farms partners and Water Rocks! partners for making this possible!

How do we request the Conservation Station at our event?
Submit a request online! Please note that submitting a request does not guarantee that the Conservation Station is booked for your event. We often receive many more requests than we are able to fulfill, so get your request in by Monday, March 22 for priority consideration.

Virtual Field Day January 21: Returning Oxbows to Iowa’s Landscape

Iowa Learning Farms, in partnership with the Iowa Nutrient Research Center, and Conservation Learning Group (CLG), is hosting a free virtual field day on returning oxbows on Iowa’s landscape on Thursday, January 21 at 1 p.m. CST.

Restoring oxbows creates a multitude of benefits to the landscape including improving water quality, offering flood storage capabilities and providing crucial wildlife habitat to a wide range of creatures including endangered species like the Topeka Shiner.

Join us for a virtual tour of a restored oxbow and live conversation with Karen Wilke, Iowa Freshwater Specialist & Boone River Project Director for The Nature Conservancy, Jeff Pudenz, Greene County landowner, Darrick Weissenfluh, private lands fish and wildlife biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Dylan Osterhaus and Sam Leberg, Research Assistants at Iowa State University.

Dylan Osterhaus and Sam Leberg seining the oxbow to take a closer look at the wildlife living there.

“Building off our ILF webinar about oxbows, this virtual tour will dive deeper into the site characteristics, survey, design, and monitoring aspects of oxbow restorations,” noted Wilke. “Find out how simple restorations can be and how abundant of an opportunity we have with oxbows!”

To participate in the live virtual field day at 1:00 pm CST on January 21, 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

Improving Farm Profitability with Precision Conservation

On Wednesday, Iowa Learning Farms hosted a webinar about how to improve farm profitability with the use of precision conservation. Josh Divan, precision ag & conservation specialist at Iowa Pheasants Forever, discussed how precision conservation can increase profitability, improve wildlife habitat, build soil health, increase water quality, and improve resiliency.

The use of precision ag technology can inform many management decisions on the farm, including identifying underperforming acres. There can be many reasons for underperforming acres, including those that frequently see ponded water, shading from trees, irregular field shapes that lead to overlapping inputs, and light, sandy soils. In these low-yield acres implementing a conservation practice can improve profitability and result in increased return-on-investment.

During the webinar, Divan explained some of the tools available to help understand the connection between yield and profitability, and to guide decision making once underperforming areas have been identified. With the new generation of ag analytics, it is possible to see how implementing a conservation practice would have affected average yield, profitability, and return-on-investment in a certain year. In the example below, if some “red” acres had been put into CRP, it would have resulted in increased average yield, profit, and return-on-investment for that year.

Implementing precision conservation can increase “farmability,” decrease risk, increase profit and return-on-investment, and decrease wasted inputs. There are also water quality and quantity, soil health, and wildlife benefits to implementing these conservation practices. Divan shared an exampled with a previous client he worked with and outlined the steps of the process to “turn red acres green.”

  1. Get to know the farmer
  2. Collect field information
  3. Connect to precision data
  4. Analyze the data, pulling in as much data as possible
  5. Investigate alternatives and determine what program or practice is the right fit
  6. Follow-up/validate the decision

To learn more about precision conservation and its benefits, watch the full webinar here!

Join us next week, on Wednesday, January 13 at noon for the webinar “Pollinator Plus: Creating a Buzz” with Jeff Jensen, a program manager and field coordinator for Trees Forever.

Hilary Pierce

January 6 Webinar: Improving Farm Profitability with Precision Conservation

How to improve farm profitability with the use of precision conservation will be the topic of the Iowa Learning Farms webinar on Wednesday, January 6 at noon.

Precision agricultural (ag) technology can inform many management decisions on the farm, including identifying underperforming acres. In these low-yielding acres, conservation can improve profitability and result in increased return-on-investment.

During this webinar, Josh Divan, precision ag & conservation specialist at Iowa Pheasants Forever, will discuss how precision conservation can increase profitability, improve wildlife habitat, build soil health, increase water quality, and improve resiliency.

“By looking at your farm data through a profitability lens, you can better understand where you have financial risk in your farm operation. Developing a plan that minimizes that risk, while simultaneously increasing your profitability is the goal of precision conservation,” said Divan.

Divan works with farmers and their precision ag data to first identify unprofitable acres within their operation and then helps them understand how laser-focused conservation programs on those “red” acres can improve their bottom line.

Webinar Access Instructions

To participate in the live webinar, shortly before 12 pm CST on January 6:

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 approved for those who are able to participate in the live webinar. Information about how to apply to receive the credit will be provided at the end of the live webinar.

Hilary Pierce