Finding Mutual Opportunities for Soil, Water, and Wildlife by Redefining the Field Edge

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.

To learn more about this project, watch the full webinar here! Find all of our past webinars on our website at https://www.iowalearningfarms.org/page/webinars.

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”.

Hilary Pierce

April 15 Webinar: Finding Mutual Opportunities for Soil, Water, and Wildlife by Redefining the Field Edge

Iowa Learning Farms will host a webinar on Wednesday, April 15 at noon.

This presentation will explore the promise and opportunities for taking unprofitable areas out of production and converting them to native perennial vegetation. Adam Janke, an Assistant Professor and Extension Wildlife Specialist at Iowa State University (ISU), will explore 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. Janke studies wildlife habitat relationships in working landscapes, with a specific focus on how wildlife use water quality conservation practices.

A large team of ISU educators have been working on this interdisciplinary project to describe the benefits of redefining the field edge. There are promising outcomes for farmers when profit loss areas are taken out of production and instead situated to grow soil and wildlife and provide clean surface waters. “I hope that participants will see the opportunity for redefining the field edge on their own farms, or farms they have influence over, and take the practice there and try it out,” said Janke when asked what he hoped webinar attendees would take away from his presentation.

Don’t miss this webinar!

DATE: Wednesday, April 15, 2020

TIME: 12:00 pm

HOW TO PARTICIPATE: shortly before 12:00 pm on April 15th:

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

Hilary Pierce

Succeeding with Cover Crops & No-Till: A Guide for Spring 2020

On Wednesday Iowa Learning Farms hosted a webinar about cover crops and no-till, with advice for operators who are using or interested in using these practices.

Liz Ripley, Conservation & Cover Crop Outreach Specialist, began by discussing cover crops and the data on their use collected by ILF through their field day participants. While the number of acres with cover crops has grown over recent years in Iowa, more adoption of the practice will be needed to meet the goals set forth in the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy. Ripley shared the results of a long term rye study and a study looking at the impacts of individual species and mixtures of species on water quality and crop yield. She also provided keys to success with cover crops:

Mark Licht, Assistant Professor & Extension Cropping Systems Specialist, then shared information about switching to no-till and the associated benefits. A study done at Iowa State University found that no-till had lower input costs and yielded higher economic return, when compared to conventional tillage. Mark’s tips for success when switching to no-till:

More information on these practices can also be found in the Whole Farm Conservation Best Practices Manual, available for free from the ISU Extension Store.

Watch the full webinar! We also have many other great archived webinars available here: https://www.iowalearningfarms.org/page/webinars.

Join us next week, at noon on April 15, when Adam Janke will present: “Finding Mutual Opportunities for Soil, Water, and Wildlife by Redefining the Field Edge”.

Hilary Pierce

April 8 Webinar: Succeeding with Cover Crops & No-Till: A Guide for Spring 2020

Iowa Learning Farms will host a webinar on Wednesday, April 8 at noon. Due to the necessary postponement of our spring field days, this webinar will provide information on how to succeed with cover crops and no-till for spring 2020.

Liz Ripley, Conservation & Cover Crop Outreach Specialist, and Mark Licht, Assistant Professor & Extension Cropping Systems Specialist, will share results from a variety of cover crop projects. These projects include a 10-year cereal rye cover crop study, species selection information, water quality impacts, and tips for spring termination.

Cover crops continue to grow in popularity in Iowa due to their many benefits: reduced soil erosion, weed suppression potential, reduced nitrogen and phosphorus loads entering water bodies, and increased soil organic matter. “Fall 2019 was another difficult harvest season with limited time to complete fall tillage. Cover crops and no-tillage work together to help increase water infiltration and reduce erosion during heavy rain events,” said Ripley and Licht.

Don’t miss this webinar!

DATE: Wednesday, April 8, 2020

TIME: 12:00 pm

HOW TO PARTICIPATE: shortly before 12:00 pm on April 8th:

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

The Effect of Stream Channel Incision on Groundwater Depth in Riparian Corridors

By: Doug Gass | South Skunk River Watershed Project Coordinator

Hilary Pierce presented on the effect of stream channel incision on groundwater depths for Iowa Learning Farms April 1 webinar.

Image Credit: USDA National Agroforestry Center

Groundwater levels in riparian corridors can have a significant impact on nitrate removal. High groundwater levels keep soil saturated and create anaerobic conditions allowing for denitrification to occur. As streams incise deeper into the ground, they leave their banks less often and spend less time in the flood plain, which could create lower groundwater levels along the riparian corridors. For her masters degree research at the University of Minnesota, Hilary observed how stream incision impacted the depth of groundwater in these corridors.

Six sites were studied in southern Minnesota throughout the Minnesota River valley. The level of stream incision was classified for each site, along with a variety of other characteristics, including soil type, vegetation type, watershed area, and local groundwater discharge. Hilary and her collaborators then recorded how often the groundwater in these sites rose to within 50 centimeters of the ground surface.

This research found a significant relationship between streambed depth and groundwater levels, with more deeply incised streams having lower groundwater levels. Hilary also found that other factors had more significant impacts on groundwater levels in riparian corridors, with stream stage and local groundwater dynamics being the most influential factors.

In the future, Hilary wants this type of research to be expanded to include more sites in a wider geographic area. She is also doing regression analyses for predicting riparian groundwater levels. It is her hope that local factors such as precipitation, evapotranspiration, and stream stage can be used to create a model for predicting riparian groundwater levels at any site.

Watch the full webinar here. We also have many other great archived webinars available here: https://www.iowalearningfarms.org/page/webinars.

Join us next week, on April 8th at noon, for the webinar “Succeeding with Cover Crops & No-Till: A Guide for Spring 2020” presented by Liz Ripley & Mark Licht.

April 1 Webinar: Stream Channel Incision & Groundwater Depth in Riparian Corridors

Iowa Learning Farms will host a webinar on Wednesday, April 1 at noon. This webinar will explore the relationship between stream channel incision and the depth to groundwater in riparian corridors.

Riparian vegetated buffers have the capacity to remove nitrogen from shallow groundwater in the riparian corridors, but this function depends on the denitrification potential of these areas. The highest potential for denitrification will occur in areas with available organic carbon and high levels of nitrate, where there is also saturation of the riparian zone near the ground surface. Interactions between the shallow groundwater table and riparian vegetation will also remove nitrogen from groundwater through plant uptake.

By determining the relationship of precipitation, evapotranspiration, stream stage and soil characteristics to the groundwater depth in the riparian corridor, it may be possible to better guide vegetated buffer planning. This could maximize buffer efficiency in areas where it is not possible to monitor groundwater depth. Streams with a higher degree of incision may be less likely to have elevated groundwater tables, reducing their potential for nitrate removal from shallow groundwater.

Hilary Pierce, an Extension Outreach Specialist with Iowa State University, will discuss this research project, which analyzed six sites in southwestern Minnesota.

A Certified Crop Adviser board-approved continuing education unit (1 CEU) is available 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.

Don’t miss this webinar!

DATE: Wednesday, April 1, 2020

TIME: 12:00 pm

HOW TO PARTICIPATE: shortly before 12:00 pm on April 1st:

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

Terminating Cover Crops This Spring

Content was originally published on March 25, 2020 on the Integrated Crop Management News blog hosted by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach and authored by Meaghan Anderson, Rebecca Vittetoe, and Bob Hartzler.

As temperatures warm this spring, cover crop termination is on the to-do list for some Iowa fields.  Killing cover crops with herbicides is the most common termination method. The effectiveness of herbicides at terminating a cover crop depends primarily on three things: 

  1. Cover crop species and growth stage
  2. Herbicide and rate used
  3. Environment

The cool and fluctuating temperatures encountered in spring often make terminating cover crops challenging. Farmers are limited to a few products like paraquat (Gramoxone; group 22), glufosinate (Liberty; group 10), or glyphosate (Roundup; group 9) for cover crop termination. Glyphosate is the most consistent option for termination, especially as cover crops increase in size. The group 1 herbicides (e.g. clethodim, fluazifop, etc.) do not provide effective control of cereal rye. If cereal rye or other grass species are seeded with a legume, inclusion of 2,4-D or dicamba with glyphosate will improve consistency of control. This addition can also be helpful if broadleaf winter annuals are present. 

In a study encompassing eight site-years across five states, treatments containing glyphosate provided the most consistent cereal rye control (Figure 1). Cereal rye ranged from 5-54 inches tall at termination in the experiments. While control of cereal rye did not differ statistically between most paraquat and glyphosate treatments, paraquat-based treatments were much less consistent than glyphosate-based treatments. Glufosinate treatments were less effective and less consistent than glyphosate treatments. While paraquat can provide acceptable control in some situations, neither glyphosate alternative (paraquat, glufosinate) provides as consistent control as glyphosate under the cool and variable spring conditions. Dicamba combinations with the three burndown herbicides provided similar results to 2,4-D combinations (data not presented).

Figure 1. Control of cereal rye cover crops with select herbicide treatments.
* represents treatment mean; box represents the mid 50% of the data set, providing information on consistency of treatments. Herbicide rates:  glyphosate: 1.0 lb/A; paraquat: 0.75 lb/A; glufosinate: 0.5 lb/A; 2,4-D: 0.5 lb/A; saflufenacil: 1 oz/A; metribuzin: 0.12 lb/A. Herbicides applied in 15 gal/A. Adapted from Whalen et al. 2020.

Vegetative growth in rye requires temperatures of at least 38 F. While air temperatures may be favorable some days, cool soil temperatures can slow growth. Herbicides are most effective on actively growing plants; thus, very early spring termination treatments may provide less than complete control. Leaving a small check strip is a simple and easy way to see if the cover crop is dying following termination.

Iowa State University researchers generally recommend terminating the cover crop with herbicide 10 -14 days prior to planting corn to protect yield; however, that time frame is less critical for soybeans. Waiting to terminate until after your crop is planted, especially in non-GMO corn, can be risky.

Termination options are more limited, and the cover crop can quickly become an uncontrollable weed in non-GMO crops. Additionally, it is important to check with your crop insurance agent for any specific cover crop requirements that they may have prior to planting corn or soybeans.

Always look at the herbicide labels for directions and any restrictions for the subsequent crop. A quick and easy place to look up herbicide labels is www.cdms.net or www.greenbook.net.

Reference:

Whalen DM, Bish MD, Young BG, Conley SP, Reynolds DB, Norsworthy JK, Bradley KW (2020) Herbicide programs for the termination of grass and broadleaf cover crop species. Weed Technol. 34: 1–10.

Additional information on cover crop termination: