We are excited to announce the release of our 2019 field day evaluation report, now available online. Since 2004, we have utilized a multi-level evaluation process to gather feedback from attendees on the quality of the events, as well as information on the conservation practices they are implementing.
Highlights from this year’s report:
- 23% of field day attendees were under age 35
- 23% were female
- 76% of farmers responding to surveys are using conservation practices (no-till/strip-till, cover crops, extended crop rotation, rotational grazing, prairie strips, pollinator habitat, saturated buffer and bioreactor.)
Cover crops are a key tool to helping meet the goals of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy with the goal of 12 to 14 million acres statewide. Through the year-end evaluation process, we are able to create an estimate of the total acres, as well as gather data on species used and cost share usage.
Key cover crop findings:
16% growth in cover crop plantings.
Only 10% of new acres were from first time cover crop users – now a five year trend of declines of plantings from new farmers.
Cost share usage remained at 68%, while 75% of first time users reported using cost share.
Cereal rye remains the dominate species, followed by oats – 90% used rye, 21% used oats.
Reasons for implementing conservation practices varies by operation, but a new question asked respondents to identify their #1 reason from the following: variable weather, soil health, water quality, wildlife habitat, landlord stipulation, and reduce soil erosion.
Many practices that address the top two reasons, soil health and reducing soil erosion, also reduce nutrient loss. These topics bring farmers and landowners to field days, enabling reinforcement of practice value and introduction of additional approaches that can address their needs and help achieve Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy goals.
Field days matter! Farmers that attend more field days are more likely to plant cover crops, network with other farmers and influence more farmers than attended the event.