Cyclone Soil Health Sweepstakes Showcase

The Iowa Learning Farms webinar on Wednesday featured a showcase of the Cyclone Soil Health Sweepstakes finalists’ videos. Iowa State University students were invited to form a team of creative minds and produce an original 3 – 5 minute video that demonstrates the importance of soil health to a specified audience. Four finalist videos were selected by a panel of judges and People’s Choice award voting is open through Sunday, April 18, on Iowa Learning Farms’ Facebook page!

Watch the videos and vote for your favorite using the “Like” or “Love” button on Facebook!

To learn more about the competition and see the four finalist videos, watch the webinar!

Join us next week, on Wednesday, April 21 at noon, for the webinar, “Benefits of Organic Farming in Terms of Soil and Water Quality” presented by Dr. Kathleen Delate, professor in the departments of agronomy and horticulture at Iowa State University.

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

March 31 Webinar: When, Where and Why Soil Erosion Occurs and When, Where and How Do We Control It

Soil erosion and how to control it is the topic of the Iowa Learning Farms webinar on Wednesday, March 31 at noon.

Soil erosion negatively affects soil productively, water quality, economics and food security. These impacts will be amplified as a less friendly climate evolves, making soil conservation today critical for a food-secure tomorrow.

Determining when and where soil erosion occurs is critical to identifying best management options for limiting soil loss. Rick Cruse, professor at Iowa State University and director of the Iowa Water Center, will share examples of temporal soil loss patterns during the year, as well as locations most susceptible to soil loss. He will also illustrate the impact of spring planting time and production of biomass crops on soil erosion rates.

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“Soil erosion has created more soil damage than most of us recognize,” said Cruse. “Understanding when and where this process is most serious can help us implement targeted conservation practices that can improve soil health while reducing soil degradation.”

Cruse’s primary research focus is soil erosion and he has years of experience addressing a wide range of soil management topics.

Webinar Access Instructions

To participate in the live webinar, shortly before 12 pm CDT on March 31:

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

The Conservation Station Fleet Rolls Again!

GOOD NEWS: Our fleet of Conservation Station trailers will be rolling again this summer! Now is the time to start thinking about spring and summer events that would be enhanced by a visit from one of our trailers. Visits from a Conservation Station trailer are available free of charge and are a great addition to county fairs, farmers markets, festivals, and other community events. Activities are being adapted to ensure that they can be delivered safely and effectively.

The Conservation Station’s online request system for spring and summer 2021 is now open and accepting requests. Submit your request by Monday, March 22 for priority consideration.

Did you say free?
Yes! The Conservation Station trailers are available to participate in events free of charge. Many thanks to our Iowa Learning Farms partners and Water Rocks! partners for making this possible!

How do we request the Conservation Station at our event?
Submit a request online! Please note that submitting a request does not guarantee that the Conservation Station is booked for your event. We often receive many more requests than we are able to fulfill, so get your request in by Monday, March 22 for priority consideration.

Finding the Right Fit for Soil Health Practices

Our webinar on Wednesday featured Dr. Abbey Wick, North Dakota State University soil health specialist and associate professor, who shared soil health approaches farmers have used in the northern plains and how they’ve tweaked those approaches to achieve their goals.

Wick explained the importance of creating the right mindset to try out new soil health practices and being willing to adjust the approach in order to meet the on-farm goals. She shared the experiences of farmers who she has worked with, both what practices they’ve tried, and also the lessons that they’ve learned. Some of the lessons learned that were highlighted were:

  • Pick your goal
  • Ask questions
  • Treat cover crop like a cash crop
  • Cover crop by soil texture
  • Find out why something worked or didn’t work
  • Try things out on your worst acres
  • Simple is okay
  • Share what you’re learning with others and get their input

Wick explained these lessons learned, along with many other during the webinar. She also shared some positives results of soil health practices that farmers are seeing, such as improved water management during wet spring and fall periods and noticeable soil health improvements in clay soils.

To learn more about finding the right fit for soil health practices, watch the full webinar here!

Join us next week, on Wednesday November 18 at noon, for a webinar with John McMaine, assistant professor and water management engineer extension state specialist at South Dakota State University, titled “Don’t Run off!—Managing Stormwater in the Urban Landscape.”

Hilary Pierce

November 11 Webinar: Finding the Right Fit for Soil Health Practices

How to create the mind-set needed to evaluate systems and develop a customized approach for adopting soil health practices that meet on-farm goals is the topic of the Iowa Learning Farms webinar at noon on Wednesday, November 11.

There isn’t a prescription for the adoption of soil health practices; it’s more of a pursuit. Farmers find a practice that could accomplish an on-farm goal and then adjust that approach as they learn how it fits their system. Dr. Abbey Wick, North Dakota State University soil health specialist and associate professor, will share approaches farmers have used in the northern plains and how they’ve tweaked those approaches to achieve their goals.

“The use of soil health practices varies by region, by farm and by field—learning how to think through a problem and pull together a set of practices is how new management approaches are successfully adopted on-farm,” said Wick who works alongside farmers, consultants, industry and researchers to come up with both science-based and practical soil health management approaches that can be adopted on-farm with reduced risk.  

Wick emphasized the importance of the thought process around soil health for the successful adoption of practices. She hopes the webinar will help participants think through some ideas to use on their farm, or in their program, research or business.

Webinar Access Instructions

To participate in the live webinar, shortly before 12 pm CST on November 11:

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

“Do you like dirt?”

Jonah Gray is an ISU sophomore from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He is pursuing a degree in Agronomy and Environmental Science with a minor in Sustainability. Jonah has lived in cities his entire life but developed a tremendous love of the outdoors and nature early.

“Do you like dirt?” is a question that has followed me since I worked at Howard H. Cherry Scout Reservation as an Ecology Instructor.  Back then, I used to answer by getting down in a push up position and yelling, “I LOVE DIRT!” as loud as I could at the ground.  Of course, all the scouts loved it and would bug me about my fondness for dirt whenever they could.  Now, when someone asks me that question, I no longer have to brutalize the eardrums of the people nearby and I can simply say, “Yes, I love soil!”

When I was an Ecology Instructor, I was young enough to have no idea what I wanted to do with my life.  What I didn’t know is that my daily and loud worship of dirt would have a lasting effect.  I found myself in my freshman year of college as an environmental science major who felt something was missing from his life.  Maybe, just maybe, I missed my soil shouting days.  So I decided to pick up a major in agronomy to get my soil fix.    

As an intern with Water Rocks! I’ve have the opportunity to do many different types of research ranging from monitoring fields for milkweed to counting earthworm middens. 

This internship has brought about many firsts, one of those being soil sampling.  What you may not know is that soil probes, which are just two chunks of metal, are outrageously expensive! I was handed one for the first time and thought, “Hm. This feels like a solid 30 bucks.” Much to my surprise, they were about 5 times more expensive, and I still can’t wrap my head around how or why two pieces of metal (that can bend and become useless very easily) are so costly!

I’ve had the opportunity to sample soil in two farm fields, and it was quite an adventure to go out and sample!  The day I sampled, we had no problem at the first site. We got out in the fields easily and got our samples in no time.  The second field was a little bit tougher, or maybe I should say softer?   We arrived at the field and ended up having to cross a creek to get in.  When we finally made it across the creek, I had an inkling to start oinking and rolling around because the field was so muddy it reminded me of a pig pen.  Sadly, I refrained from pigging out as that is not in my job description.  Nonetheless, I can’t wait to get my hands dirty again and probe some more soil!

-Jonah Gray

Carbonate, the Other Soil Carbon

On Wednesday, Iowa Learning Farms hosted a webinar about research on calcium carbonate and the potential for carbon storage in Iowa’s soils.

Mark Rasmussen, Director of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, described how calcium carbonate is formed and shared information about its distribution. Regarding the research into carbonate nodules in soil, Rasmussen explained, “We are interested in these nodules because carbonate minerals form one of the largest reservoirs of carbon on the planet and these minerals play a significant role in the long-term balance between atmospheric carbon and climate.”

A slide from the webinar, detailing estimates of carbon amounts from Monger et al., Geology, 2015

Some of the research questions being posed are:

  • How are carbonate nodules formed?
  • How much carbon in a given soil profile exists as carbonate nodules?
  • How old are these carbonate nodules?
Carbonate nodules

Rasmussen said that the group hopes to carry out research this summer at the Iowa State University Western Research Farm, where they will collect soil samples in different areas and at different depths, and then measure the carbonate. They plan to study the effect of intensive row cropping on carbonate reserves, hypothesizing that, because intense row cropping and fertilizer use slowly acidifies soil, there will be less carbonate reserve in these intensely row cropped areas compared to others.

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, at noon on April 1, when I will be presenting on my MS thesis research: “The Effect of Stream Channel Incision on Groundwater Depth in Riparian Corridors”.

Hilary Pierce

Iowa Learning Farms Weekly Webinars

Iowa Learning Farms will be hosting weekly webinars every Wednesday at noon. For those who can’t join us live, the webinars will be recorded and archived on our website!

Join us today at noon to learn more about carbonate with Mark Rasmussen and check out the full schedule (through the end of April) below.

Hilary Pierce

March 25 Webinar: Carbonate, the Other Soil Carbon

Iowa Learning Farms will host a webinar on Wednesday, March 25th at 12:00 pm, which will focus on carbonate research and the potential for carbon storage in Iowa soils.

Wind-blown loess soils of western Iowa contain a significant amount of calcium carbonate in the form of the mineral calcite. These soils are naturally calcareous due to the calcium carbonate that formed from minerals originally deposited in glacial parent material. Some carbonate is present in the form of carbonate nodules, which can readily be seen in the soil profile. How much carbon is stored as carbonate in Iowa’s soils? Are there land management practices that degrade or stimulate carbonate deposition? Mark Rasmussen, Director of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, will discuss these questions, as well as other aspects of the research being done on carbonate, during this webinar.  

“We are interested in these nodules because carbonate minerals form one of the largest reservoirs of carbon on the planet and these minerals play a significant role in the long-term balance between atmospheric carbon and climate,” said Rasmussen. “A major focus of our study is to understand the biological and chemical processes that result in carbonate formation including the carbon source used in its formation.”

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, March 25, 2020

TIME: 12:00 pm

HOW TO PARTICIPATE: shortly before 12:00 pm on March 25th:

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