Conservation Agronomy of Cover Crops: Start to Finish

This week we hosted the final session in the Cover Crop Bootcamp series, which focused on the agronomy of cover crops and tips for successfully integrating cover crops into your farming operation.

Dave Schwartz (Executive Vice President of Sales in Plant Nutrition for Verdesian Life Sciences), Meaghan Anderson (Field Agronomist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach), and Eileen Kladivko (Professor of Agronomy at Purdue University) shared information about managing pests, residuals and herbicides, nitrogen management, and the agronomics of cover crop advising.

Image from Kladivko’s presentation

Kladivko’s two-year plan for a corn-soybean rotation:

  1. Plant cereal rye into corn stalks
  2. Terminate the cereal rye in the spring (ideally 2 weeks before planting)
  3. No-till plant soybean into cereal rye
  4. Plant cover crops that winter-kill (such as oats or radishes)
  5. No-till plant corn into dead cover
Image from Kladivko’s presentation

Cover crops can improve overall weed control and reduce pressure on herbicides. During her presentation, Anderson shared information about residual herbicide, weed suppression and pest management. Preparation is key when adding cover crops to your operation.

Image from Anderson’s presentation

You can watch this bootcamp session and catch up on the first two sessions in the Cover Crop Bootcamp on our website.

Join us next week, on Wednesday, July 29 at noon, for the webinar “Multiple On-Farm Improvements Provided by Prairie Strips” with Tim Youngquist, Farmer Liaison for the Science-Based Trials of Rowcrops Integrated with Prairie Strips (STRIPS) team at Iowa State University.

Hilary Pierce

Virtual Cover Crop Boot Camp Concludes July 22

Iowa Learning Farms is collaborating with Practical Farmers of Iowa to provide an online Cover Crop Boot Camp in July. The series incorporates speakers from manufacturing, research, services, production and consulting, offering a broad spectrum of perspectives and information.

If you missed the previous two sessions, they are available on our webinar archive page.

Session 3 Details:

July 22 – Conservation Agronomy of Cover Crops: Start to Finish

  • Dave Schwartz (executive vice president of sales in plant nutrition for Verdesian Life Sciences)
  • Meaghan Anderson (ISU Extension field agronomist)
  • Dr. Eileen Kladivko (professor of agronomy at Purdue University)

Topics include: Managing pests, residuals and herbicides; nitrogen management; agronomics of cover crop advising.

To register for the webinars, please visit https://iastate.zoom.us/j/364284172 . Please select the date(s) you wish to attend.

Only attendees of the live events will qualify to receive CCA continuing education credits (CEU) for participating.

This Cover Crop Boot Camp is based on work supported by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under number 6000004181. USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer, and lender. Additional partners include: Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance and Iowa Soybean Association.

Liz Ripley

Setup and Logistics for Cover Crop Success

This week we hosted the second of three Cover Crop Bootcamp sessions featuring tips for setup and logistics for cover crop success with Bert Strayer (cover crop lead, La Crosse Seed), James Holz (Greene County farmer and co-owner, Iowa Cover Crop), Dean Sponheim (co-owner, Sponheim Sales and Services) and Nate LeVan (field agronomist, Pioneer).

The theme shared by all the presenters was working with clients to listen, match the cover crop plan to meet the customer’s goals, and understand there are many ways to manage a cover crop – one size does not fit all!

Planning for success begins now, in July! Whether you are looking to add cover crops to your farm or advise farmers and landowner interested in cover crops, now is the time to be setting up your plan for seed type, seeding method and management needs for the spring.

James Holz and Bill Frederick with their families in a cover seed field field.
“Give the gift of water quality with cover crops!”

Holz provided some key things to keep in mind as you make your cover crops plans for the fall:

  1. Determine goals for using cover crops
  2. Be aware of potential cost share program rules to meet requirements
  3. Source quality seed
  4. Identify the preferred seeding method

As cover crops bridge the brown months overwinter, it is also important to have a plan in place for managing them in the spring. Sponheim and LeVan continued the conversation with advice for three levels of cover crop experience – first timers, intermediate, and expert.

“A key to spring management, regardless of experience, is management of nitrogen ahead of corn,” noted the duo. “More N is not the goal, but adding at least 1/3 of your total N at or just after planting is key when planting corn following cover crops.”

Be sure to check out the full webinar here to catch all the great tips they provide. You can also watch the first bootcamp webinar on our website.

Join us next week, on Wednesday at noon for the final webinar in the Cover Crop Bootcamp series: “Conservation Agronomy of Cover Crops: Start to Finish”. The presenters will be:

  • Dave Schwartz (executive vice president of sales in plant nutrition for Verdesian Life Sciences)
  • Meaghan Anderson (ISU Extension field agronomist)
  • Dr. Eileen Kladivko (professor of agronomy at Purdue University)

Topics include: Managing pests, residuals and herbicides; nitrogen management; agronomics of cover crop advising.

Liz Ripley

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

Virtual Cover Crop Boot Camp Week 2

Iowa Learning Farms is collaborating with Practical Farmers of Iowa to provide an online Cover Crop Boot Camp in July. Billed as an event where ag retailers can learn to build a business case for cover crops, the program consists of three online sessions and is designed to efficiently provide actionable agronomic information which can help independent and retail agronomists and crop consultants build their business through recommending and implementing cover crops.

The series incorporates speakers from manufacturing, research, services, production and consulting, offering a broad spectrum of perspectives and information.

Session 2 Details:

July 15 – Setup and Logistics for Cover Crop Success

  • Bert Strayer (cover crop lead, La Crosse Seed)
  • James Holz (Greene County farmer and co-owner, Iowa Cover Crop)
  • Dean Sponheim (co-owner, Sponheim Seeds and Services)
  • Nate LeVan (field agronomist, Pioneer)

Topics include: Fall and spring logistics; seeding preparation and process; coordination of services – termination, nutrient management, strip-tillage, crop scouting.

To register for the webinars, please visit https://iastate.zoom.us/j/364284172 . Please select the date(s) you wish to attend.

All sessions will be recorded and archived for later viewing. Only attendees of the live events will qualify to receive CCA continuing education credits (CEU) for participating.

This Cover Crop Boot Camp is based on work supported by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under number 6000004181. USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer, and lender. Additional partners include: Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance and Iowa Soybean Association.

Liz Ripley

The Business of Cover Crops

On Wednesday, Iowa Learning Farms hosted the first webinar in the Cover Crop Bootcamp series: “The Business of Cover Crops” with Matt Carstens, President & CEO of Landus Cooperative, and Lee Briese, Independent Crop Consultant at Centrol of Twin Valley.

Carstens discussed the progress that he’s seen in agriculture throughout his career and the changes that are taking place. He believes that cover crops are one tool in the toolbox that can help producers achieve their goals. He also stated the importance of these producers having trusted advisers who can help them understand how they can best use cover crops in their operations.

Cover crops can be thought of as a 9/16″ wrench in a producer’s toolbox

Briese then shared his experience in providing services to growers and working with local extension as an independent crop consultant. Through his outreach, Briese has seen a lot of interest from farmers, not just the “progressive” early adopters of conservation practices, but also from middle or late adopters. These middle/late adopters are also showing up to meetings, asking questions, and learning more about how conservation practices like cover crops could be used in their operations.

Briese also described covered crops as a tool in the toolbox of producers—a 9/16″ wrench. He said that cover crops can be used in every system, by every different type of farmer, but that it is essential that these farmers choose the right tool for their operation. Cover crops are tools that are needed to address issues of soil and water erosion, but that they are individual species and choosing the right species, timing and placement is important.

Of the cover crop species, Briese sees cereal rye and radishes as 9/16″ wrenches—they are easy to use and can be applied in a variety of different situations. However there are many different types of crops that can be used as cover crops and it’s important for advisers to consider the specifics of the situation and determine what tools are needed to solve issues and meet the producer’s goals.

On-farm benefits of cover crops include reducing soil and water erosion, managing areas with high salinity, and suppressing weeds. Briese believes that in the future we will see more intercropping and multiple species being planted on agricultural fields to address these concerns. He went on to share several different scenarios where cover crops were being used by his clients to effectively manage issues in their farming operations.

To learn more, watch the full webinar here.

Join us next week, on Wednesday at noon for the second webinar in the Cover Crop Bootcamp series: “Setup and Logistics for Cover Crop Success”. The presenters will be:

  • Bert Strayer (cover crop lead, La Crosse Seed)
  • James Holz (Greene County farmer and co-owner, Iowa Cover Crop)
  • Dean Sponheim (co-owner, Sponheim Seeds and Services)
  • Nate LeVan (field agronomist, Pioneer)

Topics include: Fall and spring logistics; seeding preparation and process; coordination of services – termination, nutrient management, strip-tillage, crop scouting.

Hilary Pierce

Iowa Learning Farms to Host Virtual Cover Crop Boot Camp

Iowa Learning Farms is collaborating with Practical Farmers of Iowa to provide an online Cover Crop Boot Camp in July. Billed as an event where ag retailers can learn to build a business case for cover crops, the program consists of three online sessions taking place July 8, 15, and 22, all at noon CDT.

The series is designed to efficiently provide actionable agronomic information which can help independent and retail agronomists and crop consultants build their business through recommending and implementing cover crops.

“The needs of agronomists and advisers for information, practices, and business tactics related to cover crops has not been diminished by pandemic-related restrictions,” said Sarah Carlson, strategic initiatives director for PFI. “These webinars will provide ag professionals, who are working with farmers every day, with an opportunity to tune up muscle-memory about cover crops, learn from industry experts, and examine new ways to build their business. And they can join these lunchtime webinars from the convenience of their truck, office or living room.”

The series incorporates speakers from manufacturing, research, services, production and consulting, offering a broad spectrum of perspectives and information.

Session Details:

July 8 – The Business of Cover Crops

  • Matt Carstens (President & CEO, Landus)
  • Dr. Lee Briese, (independent crop consultant with Centrol of Twin Valley)

Topics include: Cover crop benefits to consulting businesses; working with Co-Ops; client interactions and planning; business case for conservation agriculture.

July 15 – Setup and Logistics for Cover Crop Success

  • Bert Strayer (cover crop lead, La Crosse Seed)
  • James Holz (Greene County farmer and co-owner, Iowa Cover Crop)
  • Dean Sponheim (co-owner, Sponheim Seeds and Services)
  • Nate LeVan (field agronomist, Pioneer)

Topics include: Fall and spring logistics; seeding preparation and process; coordination of services – termination, nutrient management, strip-tillage, crop scouting.

July 22 – Conservation Agronomy of Cover Crops: Start to Finish

  • Dave Schwartz (executive vice president of sales in plant nutrition for Verdesian Life Sciences)
  • Meaghan Anderson (ISU Extension field agronomist)
  • Dr. Eileen Kladivko (professor of agronomy at Purdue University)

Topics include: Managing pests, residuals and herbicides; nitrogen management; agronomics of cover crop advising.

To register for the webinars, please visit https://iastate.zoom.us/j/364284172 . Please select the date(s) you wish to attend.

All sessions will be recorded and archived for later viewing. Only attendees of the live events will qualify to receive CCA continuing education credits (CEU) for participating.

This Cover Crop Boot Camp is based on work supported by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under number 6000004181. USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer, and lender. Additional partners include: Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance and Iowa Soybean Association.

Liz Ripley

Optimizing Yields of Corn Planted After a Cereal Rye Cover Crop

Iowa Learning Farms hosted a webinar about the effect of a cereal rye cover crop on corn yield. Alison Robertson, Professor and Extension Field Crops Pathologist at Iowa State University, shared results from one of her research projects, which investigates the effect of planting green on corn growth and development, and seedling disease. For this research project, experimental plots, microplots, and on-farm trials were used to look at how different rye termination dates and fertilizer applications affected the early corn growth and seedling disease, as well as overall yield.

Treatments used for the experimental plot field trial

It is recommended that rye cover crops are terminated at least ten days before planting corn to reduce potential yield drag in corn. However, in some years this is not possible, due to conditions at planting, or when a farmer would prefer to let the cover crop grow as long as possible for soil health and environmental benefits. This research looks at the effect of planting green and different rye termination dates on corn growth and yield.

2019 yield results from the experimental field trials for no rye, rye terminated 18 days before planting (DBP) with nitrogen applied, rye terminated 18 DBP, rye terminated 3 DBP, rye terminated 6 days after planting (DAP), and rye terminated 12 DAP

The experimental plot field trial in 2019 showed that yield was negatively impacted by the rye, except for when the rye was terminated 18 days before planting (DBP) and nitrogen was applied.

The microplot treatments

The microplots, which were about 15-20 plants long, looked at different fertilizer treatments for corn grown after rye and after no rye. The results from these treatments in 2019 showed that rye affects the early growth of corn. An unexpected result of this study was that there was more root rot present where nitrogen was applied.

Summary of the 2019 data

To learn more about this research project and the effect of rye cover crops on corn growth and development, watch the full webinar here.

Join us this week, on Wednesday, July 8 at noon, when the Cover Crop Bootcamp series kicks off with a presentation titled “The Business of Cover Crops” by Matt Carstens, President & CEO of Landus Cooperative, and Lee Briese, Independent Crop Consultant at Centrol of Twin Valley.

Hilary Pierce

July 1 Webinar: Optimizing Yields of Corn Planted After a Cereal Rye Cover Crop

Iowa Learning Farms will host a webinar on Wednesday, July 1 at noon about the effect of a cereal rye cover crop on corn yield.

Alison Robertson, Professor and Extension Field Crops Pathologist at Iowa State University, will share results from one of her research projects which investigate the effect of planting green on corn growth and development, and seedling disease. It is recommended that rye cover crops are terminated at least ten days before planting corn to reduce potential yield drag in corn. However, in some years this is not possible, due to conditions at planting, or when a farmer would prefer to let the cover crop grow as long as possible for soil health and environmental benefits. This webinar will explore the benefits or disadvantages of this practice.

“Starting to incorporate cover crops on a farm may seem daunting, so our research seeks to better understand the system and provide management options to ensure new adopters are successful,” said Robertson, whose research lab focuses on seedling diseases of corn and soybean caused by oomycetes (water molds), particularly in corn and soybean planted after cover crops. “The benefits of cover crops far outweigh the disadvantages; and there are ways to manage the disadvantages.”

To participate in the live webinar, shortly before 12:00 pm CDT on July 1:

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

A Resource for Successful Adoption of Conservation Practices

Iowa Learning Farms hosted a webinar on Wednesday, June 17 about the “Whole Farm Conservation Best Practices Manual”.   

The “Whole Farm Conservation Best Practices Manual” brought together many experts to develop a resource that will aid the successful adoption of cover crops, no-/strip-tillage, diverse rotations, and edge-of-field practices. The manual is designed to be a useful tool for farmers and crop advisers. It includes decision tools that will guide operators, landowners and/or conservation professionals through the decision-making process for adopting and implementing conservation practices. 

Mark Licht, Assistant Professor and Extension Cropping Systems Specialist at Iowa State University, discussed the manual and used two scenarios to show how the manual could be used to help guide decision-making around the adoption of conservation practices.

One of the scenarios shown in the webinar

To show how the manual could be used to help farmer Smith decide what tillage management practice would work on her farm, Licht showed the residue management decision tool, which provides guidance based on what crop rotation is used. He also highlighted the additional considerations that can be found in the manual and the information available for the best management of these conservation practices.

The decision tool that could be used to guide farmer Smith’s decision

Licht also shared a scenario about cover crop adoption and discussed the diverse rotation tool, as well as the edge-of-field practices that the manual covers. To learn more, watch the full webinar here!

The full manual is available as a free download from the ISU Extension Store, or our website.

Join us on Wednesday at noon when William Crumpton, Professor at Iowa State University, will present a webinar titled, “Environmental Performance of Wetlands Receiving Non-Point Source Nutrient Loads: Benefits and Limitations of Targeted Wetland Restorations”.

Hilary Pierce