How do we maintain productive, profitable farms in Iowa that protect soil resources, support biodiversity, and send cleaner water downstream? Tune in to the December Iowa Learning Farms webinar to learn more about these challenges and opportunities from Dr. Adam Janke. Janke serves as Assistant Professor in Natural Resources Ecology and Management and Extension Wildlife Specialist at Iowa State University.
Many wildlife species in Iowa have exhibited consistent population declines over recent decades. However, contrary to popular belief, these population declines are not due to the expansion of agricultural land. Farmed acres in Iowa have actually declined when compared to the 1930s.
However, what has changed dramatically is the intensification and homogenization of agricultural production. Comparing the 1930s to now, the diversity of cropping systems has dramatically decreased, hedgerows and weedy areas have all but disappeared, and there has been a clear trend towards uniformity on the landscape. Put simply, all of this points to fewer places for wildlife to live.
While much recent attention has been focused on water quality-related conservation practices that align with the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy, Janke emphasizes that many of these conservation practices also offer great benefits to farmland wildlife.
Janke points out, “Changes in land use intended to address water quality can also address wildlife concerns in Iowa’s Wildlife Action Plan.” (Did you know that Iowa has over 400 species identified as Species of Greatest Conservation Need?!)
In order for farmland wildlife to thrive, Janke emphasizes three big needs:
- Native diversity: Wildlife favor native plants over non-natives, and there is a particular benefit to having diverse vegetation providing food resources over the course of the season.
- Natural features: Natural features like herbaceous vegetation and shallow, pooled water provide important food resources and habitat for wildlife.
- Size/connectivity: In order to make meaningful gains, wildlife need adjacent or near-adjacent, connected parcels of land that provide quality habitat.
Riparian buffers, wetlands, and strategic integration of prairie into row crop productions can make a huge difference for wildlife! Watch the full webinar here to learn more about studies that Janke and colleagues have conducted tracking farmland wildlife here in Iowa, along with additional insight into the relationships and synergies between water, soil, and wildlife stewardship.
P.S. Stay tuned for further information about next month’s Iowa Learning Farms webinar (date TBA). We look forward to kicking things off with a joint webinar-podcast featuring a conversation with Iowa’s Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig.