July 9 Virtual Field Day: Prairie Strips – Small Footprint, Big Impact

Iowa Learning Farms, in partnership with the Iowa Nutrient Research Center, and Conservation Learning Group, is hosting a free virtual prairie strips field day on Thursday, July 9 at 1pm CDT.  Join us as we explore the multitude of benefits prairie strips can offer with Tim Youngquist, ISU Prairie STRIPS farmer liaison, and Gary Guthrie, Story County landowner with prairie strips.

Photo Credit: Omar de Kok-Mercado

Prairie strips is a farmland conservation practice that uses strategically placed native prairie plantings in crop fields. The practice has been tested by the Science-based Trials of Rowcrops Integrated with Prairie Strips (STRIPS) team since 2007 on experimental plots at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge and increasingly on commercial farms across Iowa. Results from more than eight years of trials showed that converting just 10 percent of a crop field to prairie strips could result in a reduction of 95 percent of the sediment, 90 percent of the phosphorus and 84 percent of the nitrogen from overland flow of surface water.

“Prairie strips are a useful conservation tool that farmers and landowners throughout the Midwest are integrating into their farming operations,” noted Youngquist. “Prairie keeps soil in place, filters water, offers habitat for many native species of wildlife and pollinators, provides beautiful blooming flowers, and more.”

Make plans to join us and participate in the live field day. Shortly before 1:00 pm CDT on July 9th, click this URL or visit www.iowalearningfarms.org/page/events and click “Join Live Virtual Field Day”.

Or, join from a dial-in phone line:

    Dial: +1 312 626 6799 or +1 646 876 9923

    Meeting ID: 914 1198 4892

The field day will be recorded and archived on the ILF website so that it can be watched at any time. The archive is available at https://www.iowalearningfarms.org/page/events.

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 field day.

Liz Ripley

June 18 Virtual Field Day: Digging Into Soil Health

Iowa Learning Farms, in partnership with the Iowa Nutrient Research Center, and Conservation Learning Group, is hosting a free virtual soil health field day on Thursday, June 18 at 1pm CDT.  Join us as we dig into soil health with Dr. Marshall McDaniel, assistant professor in soil-plant interactions at Iowa State University, with video footage from the field and live interaction during the event.

The term ‘Soil Health’ has recently become popular due, in large part, to the increased awareness of the importance of soil biology.  However, current biological soil health tests are expensive, highly variable, and difficult to interpret. McDaniel studies the relationship between soils and plants and how this relationship is affected by management and the environment. The McDaniel Research Group’s goal is to understand what enhances soil-plant interaction, soil health, and agroecosystem sustainability. 

“Farmers want to be able to monitor changes in their soils. While traditional fertility tests have major limitations when it comes to measuring soil biology, commercially available soil health are very expensive. We want to highlight some good do-it-yourself soil health tests that farmers and landowners can implement relatively inexpensively,” noted McDaniel.

Make plans to join us and participate in the live field day. Shortly before 1:00 pm CDT on June 18th, click HERE: or visit www.iowalearningfarms.org/page/events and click “Join Live Virtual Field Day”.

Or, join from a dial-in phone line:

    Dial: +1 312 626 6799 or +1 646 876 9923

    Meeting ID: 914 1198 4892

The field day will be recorded and archived on the ILF website so that it can be watched at any time. The archive is available at https://www.iowalearningfarms.org/page/events.

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 field day.

Liz Ripley

May 13 Webinar: Exploring the Case for Retiring (Or at Least Down-Sizing) the Mower on Farms and City Lots

Iowa Learning Farms will host a webinar on Wednesday, May 13 at noon about the benefits of reducing mowed land area across rural Iowa.

Reducing the size of mowed areas in rural Iowa has many layered benefits for landowners and land. Adam Janke, Assistant Professor and Extension Wildlife Specialist, will compare the costs and environmental benefits of three management options for existing idle turf grass areas in rural landscapes. Changing management of these areas from turf monocultures to diverse native perennial plants, like those found in pollinator plantings, can improve water quality, soil health and wildlife habitat. Making the change from turf to native perennial plants will also save landowners money and time.

“Farm margins are exceptionally tight and the need for every available acre in Iowa to work for soil, water and wildlife is greater than ever,” said Janke. “This work will show how creating new habitat areas on a farm can help to improve conservation outcomes while also saving time and money for the landowners.”

Janke, who studies wildlife habitat relationships in working agricultural landscapes, hopes that participants will take away new perspectives and ideas for what they can do with idle areas that already exist on their farms and acreages.

To participate in the live webinar, shortly before 12:00 pm on May 13:

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

Multi-Cropping as a Profitable Soil Health Solution

Iowa Learning Farms hosted a webinar on Wednesday about multi-cropping, and the soil health, environmental, and economic benefits of this practice.

Multi-cropping, which means more than one crop is harvested from the same field in the same year, can be done in several different ways. Relay-cropping is one option, where two crops with overlapping growing seasons are grown in the same field. Another option is double cropping, which is when two crops are grown and harvested together. Poly-cropping is when three or more crops are grown together. Finally, inter-cropping is when one or more crops are planted into an existing crop prior to harvest.

Ross Evelsizer, Watershed Planner & GIS Specialist at Northeast Iowa RC&D, explained what Iowa farmers have been trying and how multi-cropping can be done successfully. Iowa farmers are having good luck with relay-cropping. Crop combinations that are being used successfully in Iowa include pairing soybeans with a fall or spring planted small grain. Corn setups have been less successful, but some participants have tried corn with forage mix or cowpeas planted between 60 in. corn rows.

Benefits of multi-cropping for the farmer or landowner include diverse investments, improved soil health, weed suppression, and flexibility. From an environmental standpoint, multi-cropping can reduce soil erosion, reduce disturbances, and increase biodiversity. Evelsizer shared a producer’s relay-crop budget vs. their soybean production budget. Although there was a yield reduction for the soybeans grown in the relay-cropping system, the added revenue from the cereal rye meant that, overall, revenue for the relay setup was higher. The profit for the relay system was also significantly higher than that of the soybeans alone.

To learn more about multi-cropping, watch the full webinar here! You can also connect with Multi-Cropping Iowa on Facebook or Twitter!

Join us next week to learn about the benefits of mowing less. Adam Janke, an Assistant Professor and Extension Wildlife Specialist at Iowa State University, will present a webinar titled “Exploring the Economic, Ecological, and Aesthetic Case for Retiring (Or at Least Down-Sizing) the Mower on Farms and City Lots”.

Hilary Pierce

May 6 Webinar: Multi-Cropping as a Profitable Soil Health Solution

Iowa Learning Farms will host a webinar on Wednesday, May 6 at noon about multi-cropping, and the soil health, environmental, and economic benefits of this practice.

Multi-cropping has many associated benefits. It adds opportunities for producers to increase diversity to crop rotations, creates additional economic opportunities, reduces input costs and weed pressure, mimics nature, and builds soil health. Ross Evelsizer, Watershed Planner & GIS Specialist at Northeast Iowa RC&D, will explain what multi-cropping is, and what producers are doing in Iowa and other parts of the country, during this webinar. Evelsizer will also describe the benefits of multi-cropping for soil health and the environment, as well as the economic implications of the practice.

“I hope people will learn about multi-cropping and think about how it could be worked into what they are doing,” said Evelsizer, who has had seven years of experience in watershed management in northeast Iowa, where he has worked alongside producers and landowners to tackle flooding and water quality issues while maintaining economic productivity. He will also discuss the next steps for Multi-Cropping Iowa.

To participate in the live webinar, shortly before 12:00 pm on May 6:

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

Tips for Adding Cover Crops to Your Farm

Today’s post focuses another in-field conservation practices covered in the Whole Farm Conservation Best Practices Manual and the great decisions trees related to cover crops!

Hands holding a clump of soil with green rye growing over a shovel

Cover crops are plant species, such as oats and cereal rye, planted to reduce soil erosion, improve soil health, and provide water quality benefits during the months of the year when crops are not actively growing on farmland. Incorporating cover crops improves soil health by:

  • Improving soil structure
  • Reducing soil compaction
  • Protecting the soil surface

Cover crops are seeded in the fall, either before or after harvest. They are not harvested as grains, but can be grazed or harvested as forage. Cover crops go hand-in-hand with no-tillage and strip-tillage.

6 Tips to Success for Starting Out with Cover Crops:

  • Oats ahead of corn
  • Cereal rye ahead of soybean
  • Selecting the seeding method that fits your system (see decision trees below)
  • Terminate 10-14 days ahead of corn and 3-7 days ahead of soybeans
  • Spring tillage of cover crops is NOT recommended
  • Adjust planter settings to higher residue system

The manual provides more detailed information on each of these tips and more, so download a FREE copy for your farm today.

Also be sure to check out our YouTube video series Cover Crops: Farmer Perspectives and Adding a Cover Crop to a Corn-Soybean System, as well as our recent webinar – Succeeding with Cover Crops & No-Till: A Guide for Spring 2020​​​​​​​ and virtual field days for more great information.

Liz (Juchems) Ripley

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

Science + Support = Sound Stewardship

Improving water quality, soil health, and wildlife habitat while remaining productive and profitable is the focus of many conservation efforts in Iowa. There has been extensive education and outreach programming to increase awareness of practices aimed at these goals and confidence in selection and management is essential for moving from awareness to implementation. However, recommendations have varied depending on the organization providing advice, leading to uncertainty among farmers and landowners.

In 2019, the Conservation Learning Group brought together leading scientists and technical specialists in Iowa for a series of four conservation systems summits to build consensus on the best management recommendations for farmers and landowners getting started with conservation and water quality practices.

The Whole Farm Conservation Best Practices Manual is the final product of those summits—a one-stop shop intended to help select and incorporate the in-field and edge-of-field conservation practices most appropriate to the decision maker’s land and preferences.  The manual is available FREE from the ISU Extension Store and hard copies will be distributed to each county NRCS office for easy access.

Over the next few weeks, I will be highlighting portions of the manual and providing links to great resources that are included.

First up – Conservation Practices at a Glance

This section provides a great visual guide to help farmers, landowners, agronomists and other technical advisors match up practices with their ability to address soil health, nutrient loss reduction and habitat resource concerns.  

Using the Chart

Example: My resource concern is soil health.

The practices that score highest for having a strong impact are cover crops and no-tillage and there is scientific consensus to back that up. Whereas if habitat was my main concern, those same practices have weak to no impact. This chart can help decision makers evaluate the different options and choose those that can meet their resource concern goals.

The remainder of the manual takes a closer look at these practices and provides recommendations that reduce risk and lead to success. Stay tuned!

Liz (Juchems) Ripley

Prepare for Crop Year 2020 by Attending a Spring Field Day

Iowa Learning Farms is hosting four spring cover crop field days. Make plans to attend one near you! RSVP today to 515-294-5429 or ilf@iastate.edu.

March 17, Cover Crop Field Day
12:30-2:30pm
Agri-Tech Aviation
12871 Geneva St
Indianola, IA 50125
Warren County
Partners: Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, Natural Resource Conservation Service
Press Release
Flyer

March 18, Cover Crop and Soil Health Field Day
12:30-2:30pm
Campbell Farm
2260 Hwy 30
Grand Mound, IA 52751
Clinton County
Partner: Natural Resource Conservation Service
Press Release
Flyer

March 24, Cover Crop Field Day
5:30-7:30pm
Roger Van Donselaar Farm
511 6th Avenue West
Grinnell, IA 50112
Poweshiek County
Partners: Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, Natural Resource Conservation Service, Poweshiek County Soil and Water Conservation District
Press Release
Flyer

April 9, Cover Crop Termination Field Day
3:30-5:30pm
Rick Juchems Farm
33635 110th St
Plainfield, IA 50666
Butler County
Partners: Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship 
*Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig will be speaking*

Liz Ripley