May 5 Webinar: Can Small Grain, Soybean Relay Intercropping Be Successful in Iowa?

Succeeding with small grain, soybean relay intercropping in Iowa is the topic of the Iowa Learning Farms webinar at noon on Wednesday, May 5.

Small grain, soybean relay intercropping is the next step after using small grains for cover crops. Mark Licht, assistant professor and extension cropping systems specialist at Iowa State University, will explain this practice and its benefits. Relay intercropping is a way to extend active plant growth after corn and before soybean to achieve soil health and nutrient loss reduction benefits similar to soybean. Growth of the small grain crop is extended through seed production to also provide economic value, which is a missed opportunity when small grains are used solely as a cover crop.

Small grain seed production can be used for livestock feed rations and niche food markets. While soybean and wheat production considered individually may be slightly lower compared to optimized sole crop production, a relay intercropping system results in greater land use equivalency.

“Relay intercropping is a system that has potential to be used across Iowa in an effort to diversify and provide resiliency to cropping systems,” said Licht. “While relay intercropping can be more risky, using a relay intercropping system can diversify farm income while providing soil health and nutrient loss reduction benefits.”

Licht’s research focuses on corn and soybean production systems and ways to incorporate conservation practices into those systems.

Webinar Access Instructions

To participate in the live webinar, shortly before 12 pm CDT on May 5:

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

Cover Crops and Pheasant Nesting in Iowa’s Ag-Dominated Landscape

The Iowa Learning Farms webinar on Wednesday highlighted research being done on where pheasants nest and how to better manage areas to make them optimal for nesting. Taylor Shirley, a graduate research assistant at Iowa State University, discussed findings from a recent study on pheasant nesting in southeastern Iowa. The research sought to determine where pheasants are nesting, why they choose certain nest sites, and how to make cover crops more attractive to nesting pheasants.

This research project was carried out in Washington County, Iowa, due to the county having a high level of cover crop adoption and a large abundance of pheasants. Nest searches and vegetation surveys were carried out in three cover types: fall-seeded cover crops, native warm season grasses, and cool season grasses. More nests were found in the native warm season grass sites compared to the cover crop and the cool season grass sites. Visual concealment of the nests by the vegetation was an important factor in nest site selection, with more nests being found where there was higher litter cover and higher visual obstruction readings during the vegetation surveys.

The cover crop sites had the lowest amount of litter cover and the lowest visual obstruction reading, meaning that there are opportunities to manage these sites differently if attracting more pheasants is a goal. Management strategies that could improve cover crops as a nesting site for pheasants include earlier planting and later termination of the cover crop to allow for more growth and relay cropping to allow for more spring cover leading to better nest concealment.

To learn more about where pheasants choose to nest and how cover crops could be managed to be more attractive to nesting pheasants, watch the full webinar!

Join us next week, on Wednesday, May 5, for the webinar, “Can Small Grain, Soybean Relay Intercropping Be Successful in Iowa?” with Mark Licht, assistant professor and extension cropping systems specialist at Iowa State University.

Hilary Pierce

April 28 Webinar: Cover Crops and Pheasant Nesting in Iowa’s Ag-Dominated Landscape

The Iowa Learning Farms webinar at noon on Wednesday, April 28, will highlight research being done on where pheasants nest and how to better manage areas to make them optimal for nesting.

During the webinar, Taylor Shirley, a graduate research assistant at Iowa State University, will discuss findings from a recent study conducted by Iowa State University on pheasant nesting in southeastern Iowa. Shirley will explore where pheasants choose to nest, what characteristics make an area optimal for nesting, and how areas can be managed to better meet the needs of nesting pheasants.

“Agriculture is a big part of Iowa’s landscape and many farmers and landowners are implementing practices to improve water and soil health. Many people also enjoy seeing pheasants and hope to bring populations up to the numbers we once had,” said Shirley. “In this presentation, we’ll explore how agronomic practices like cover crops may help meet these goals.”

Shirley’s research focuses on the intersection of agriculture and wildlife conservation by exploring how cover crops may provide nesting cover for pheasants in Iowa.

Webinar Access Instructions

To participate in the live webinar, shortly before 12 pm CDT on April 28:

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

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

Economic Considerations on Cover Crop Adoption

Alejandro Plastina, associate professor and extension economist at Iowa State University, addressed the profitability of winter cover crops in Iowa from the producer’s perspective, based on agronomic experiments and surveys of farmers, during the Iowa Learning Farms webinar on Wednesday.

There are several reasons to use cover crops, including improved soil health and reduced soil erosion, water quality benefits, and pest management. Despite these benefits, the adoption rate of cover crops in Iowa is low, only growing from 1% in 2012 to 4% in 2017. Plastina hypothesized why the adoption rate is so low and shared four analyses that he used to support his claims about why the cover crop adoption rate in Iowa is low.

Research started with several focus groups, during which experienced cover crop users were asked about their motivations for cover crop use, and partial budgets were used to put numbers behind the perceived returns and costs of cover crops. To get a larger sample size, they then conducted a regional online survey across several midwestern states. A state-wide mailed survey was also sent to producers in Iowa who indicated they planted at least 10 acres of cover crops in the 2012 Census of Agriculture. In response to criticism of the state-wide survey results, Plastina conducted surveys in other states and a study in Iowa that assessed net returns based on experimental data.

Plastina encouraged webinar attendees to use two tools to create their own partial budgets and see the expected economic benefits and costs of cover crops in their operations:

To learn more about the economics of cover crops, watch the full webinar!

Join us on Wednesday, March 31 at noon, for the webinar, “When, Where and Why Soil Erosion Occurs and When, Where and How Do We Control It” with Rick Cruse, professor at Iowa State University and director of the Iowa Water Center.

Hilary Pierce

March 24 Webinar: Economic Considerations on Cover Crop Adoption

Learn about the economics of cover crops during the Iowa Learning Farms webinar on Wednesday, March 24 at noon.

Alejandro Plastina, associate professor and extension economist at Iowa State University, will address the profitability of winter cover crops in Iowa from the producer’s perspective, based on agronomic experiments and surveys of farmers. Plastina will also present two decision tools that can be used to calculate farmers’ own expected net returns on cover crops.

The presentation will conclude with a discussion of the relative costs of nitrate leaching abatement through cover crops borne by farmers and taxpayers, and a brief discussion on why it is too early to think about monetizing soil health improvements.

“Cover crops are a good farming practice, but they are only profitable for a small percentage of farms,” said Plastina. “Webinar participants will learn how they are able to use a decision tool to calculate their expected net returns on cover crops.”

Dr. Plastina’s research and extension program focuses on farm business and financial management, with a particular emphasis on the economics of conservation practices.

Webinar Access Instructions

To participate in the live webinar, shortly before 12 pm CDT on March 24:

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

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