On Wednesday, April 15 Iowa Learning Farms hosted a webinar that explored the promise and opportunities for taking unprofitable areas out of production and converting them to native perennial vegetation.
There are many benefits associated with this practice, known as “redefining the field edge”. When farmers take profit loss areas out of production and plant them to native, perennial vegetation, they can be used to grow soil and wildlife, and to provide clean surface waters. A large team of Iowa State University (ISU) educators have been working on this interdisciplinary project to describe the benefits of redefining the field edge.
Adam Janke, an Assistant Professor and Extension Wildlife Specialist at ISU explained where these areas are found in crop fields, what to do with them once they’re found, and how water and wildlife can benefit from this conservation practice during the webinar.
Janke explained that there are opportunities for this practice all over Iowa, where areas of cropland operate at a loss. Converting these unprofitable areas of fields to perennial vegetation can not only save the farmer or landowner money, but also provide important soil, water and wildlife benefits. In order to find where these opportunities to “redefine the field edge” exist, a team of researchers did profitability analysis and mapping at the field level.
To better understand attitudes toward, and barriers to, establishment of native, perennial vegetation, listening sessions were held and a “Best Practices Survey” was sent out. The team found that there are educational opportunities for explaining what native, perennial plants are and the benefits associated with planting them. There are also opportunities to educate on how to establish and manage perennial plants on farms, and for urban areas. The team also found that program incentives can be helpful, as long as they are navigable.
Janke also described biological monitoring, which started in 2019 and will continue in 2020. This monitoring will be used to assess the wildlife benefits associated with this practice. Monitoring occurred at sites west of Ames, where farmers and landowners have already established these areas of perennial plants. Birds, monarch butterflies, nectar resources and milkweed plants were surveyed.
Join us on Wednesday, April 22nd when Billy Beck, Assistant Professor and Extension Forestry Specialist at Iowa State University, will present a webinar titled: “Trees, Forests, and Forestry: Benefits to Water Quality and On-Farm Income in Iowa”.