October 16 Webinar: ISU Bee Research and Best Management Practices

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Iowa Learning Farms will host a webinar on Wednesday, October 16 at 12:00 p.m. about the research being done at Iowa State University on bees in agricultural settings.Cass

Did you know there are between 300 and 400 species of bees in the state of Iowa? Randall Paul Cass, Extension Entomologist at Iowa State University, will present research that is currently being conducted at Iowa State University, which focuses on observing the challenges and opportunities for bees in Iowa’s agricultural landscapes.

“We thrive when bees thrive,” said Cass, whose research focuses on honey bees and native bees and on exploring how Iowa’s landscapes impact bee health and abundance. Join us at noon on October 16 to learn more about Iowa’s native bees and the research being done at Iowa State University on the relationship between bees and agriculture.

A Certified Crop Adviser board approved continuing education unit (1 CEU: Crop Management) is available for those who are able to watch the live webinar. Information for submitting your CCA/CPAg/CPSS/CPSC number to earn the credit will be provided at the end of the presentation.

Don’t miss this webinar!
DATE: Wednesday, October 16, 2019
TIME: 12:00 p.m.
HOW TO PARTICIPATE: visit www.iowalearningfarms.org/page/webinars and click the link to join the webinar

More information about this webinar is available at our website. If you can’t watch the webinar live, an archived version will be available on our website:
https://www.iowalearningfarms.org/page/webinars.

Hilary Pierce

Integrating Perennials into Underperforming Parts of Crop Fields

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Emily Waring | Agricultural & Biosystems Engineering Graduate Student, Iowa State University

Emily Heaton 2019On Wednesday, September 18, Dr. Emily Heaton shared research on the integration of perennials into underperforming parts of crop fields in an Iowa Learning Farms webinar. Dr. Heaton researches whether perennials in Iowa could be worthwhile not only environmentally but also economically. At the county level, it is clear; energy crops such as switchgrass are not profitable. This research looks at the story of perennials in Iowa with more detail: are there areas within fields that could be economical with switchgrass?

To evaluate the economic and environmental opportunities of growing perennials in Iowa, Dr. Heaton and her group compiled USDA soil maps and costs of crop inputs and management from 2011 to 2014. They predicted money and pounds of nitrogen lost across the state. But they did it at the sub-field level, meaning they evaluated each 2.5-acre area in the state, rather than just at the field-scale.

They modeled 3 scenarios: baseline, conservative, and environmental. The baseline assumes that management remains the same in Iowa, conservative assumes that we change the sub-field areas that are losing at least $40/acre and >45 lbs of nitrogen/acre from rowcrop to switchgrass, and environmental assumes we change the sub-field areas that are losing at least $0/acre and >18 lbs of nitrogen/acre to switchgrass.

They found that in the conservative scenario, 12% of the land area in Iowa meets the requirements and if converted to switchgrass would produce 11 million Mg of biomass each year. In the environmental scenario, 37% of Iowa’s crop land would be converted to switchgrass—producing 34 million Mg of biomass each year. The environmental impact of these scenarios is huge, the conservative scenario would reduce nitrate loss by 18% and in the environmental scenario, Iowa would reduce nitrate loss by 38%. For reference, these levels of cropland conversion are similar to recent Iowa land use: until the 1970s about 30% of what is now Iowa cropland was in small grains or pasture.

This research shows that we could get very close to meeting the nutrient reduction strategy goals for nitrogen by targeting the land that struggles to turn a profit with grain crops.

To view the profitability maps shown in the webinar, click here (please note the disclaimer for intended use).

To learn more about this topic, watch the full webinar here!

Join us next month, on Wednesday, October 16 at noon, when Randall Paul Cass, Extension Entomologist at Iowa State University, will present an Iowa Learning Farms webinar titled “ISU Bee Research and Best Management Practices”.

September 18 Webinar: Integrating Perennials into Underperforming Parts of Crop Fields

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Iowa Learning Farms will host a webinar on Wednesday, September 18 at 12:00 p.m. about the benefits of integrating perennial vegetation into underperforming parts of crop fields.

Emily Heaton 2019“Ever wonder if something more profitable, productive, and environmentally friendly could be grown in the bare spots you see in fields? We did too! Spoiler alert: perennial plants checked all the boxes,” said Emily Heaton, an Associate Professor at Iowa State University. Heaton is a plant scientist who is working on sustainable biomass production systems. She will discuss how the use of perennial plants in underperforming parts of fields can have a positive impact on the farm economy, water quality and bioenergy feedstock production.

When asked what she hoped webinar participants will take away from their viewing, Heaton said, “Perennial plants are to agriculture what exercise is to human health: a straightforward, consistently effective solution to a multitude of challenges.” If you’re interested in learning more about the integration of perennial vegetation into crop fields and the benefits that doing so could have, tune in to watch this webinar on September 18.

A Certified Crop Adviser board approved continuing education unit (CEU) is available for those who are able to watch the live webinar. Information for submitting your CCA/CPAg/CPSS/CPSC number to earn the credit will be provided at the end of the presentation.

Don’t miss this webinar!
DATE: Wednesday, September 18, 2019
TIME: 12:00 p.m.
HOW TO PARTICIPATE: visit www.iowalearningfarms.org/page/webinars and click the link to join the webinar

More information about this webinar is available at our website. If you can’t watch the webinar live, an archived version will be available on our website:
https://www.iowalearningfarms.org/page/webinars.

Hilary Pierce

15 Years of Iowa Learning Farms

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On Wednesday, Jacqueline Comito discussed the evolution of Iowa Learning Farms (ILF) over the past 15 years in an Iowa Learning Farms webinar. She talked about how ILF is doing in achieving its mission of creating a “Culture of Conservation”, shared some results on conservation practice adoption and described some of the new goals and challenges that the future holds. Has ILF been successful in building a Culture of Conservation? Yes, in short, but there is still a lot of work to do!

“To build a Culture of Conservation means that conservation will be at the heart of everything we do,” said Comito. Over the years ILF has used field days to help develop this culture and has figured out what methods work to make field days successful. Through evaluation and observation, ILF wrote the book on how to host a successful field day and hopes that this method will be widely adopted by those who host their own field days.

ILF Field Days Slide

ILF has reached many people through its field days over the years, as can be seen in the above graphic, which doesn’t include 2019 field days/workshops. One key component of ILF field days is the evaluation done, which has allowed ILF to compile years of useful data, including tracking practice adoption. The graphic below shows where the adoption of some conservation practices fall in the “Diffusion of Innovation” model developed by E.M. Rogers. According to ILF estimates, cover crop usage is in the “early adopters” category, with no-till/strip till already reaching in to the “early majority”. Newer edge-of-field practices like bioreactors and saturated buffers haven’t yet made it off the starting line.

ILF practice adoption slide

In order to help work to meet the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy goals and continue to be successful over the next 5-10 years, ILF is striving to

  • Increase the number of ILF field days and workshops in order to:
    • Expand the number of early adopters for cover crops
    • Increase the number of middle adopters for no-tillage and strip tillage
    • Increase the number of innovators for edge-of-field practices
  • Nurture relationships with conservation-focused farmers across the state who are willing to host field days
  • Rejuvenate the farmer-partner program with new voices
  • Focus on the “why” of conservation practice implementation to create a greater sense of urgency behind building soil health and improving water quality
  • Advance robust community outreach statewide with the Conservation Station trailers

To learn more about ILF’s successes, growth, impacts and challenges, watch the recorded webinar and check out the “Building a Culture of Conservation – 2004-2019” 15-Year report.

Join us next month, on Wednesday, September 18 at noon, when Emily Heaton, Associate Professor at Iowa State University, will present an Iowa Learning Farms webinar titled “Integrating Perennials into Underperforming Parts of Fields Could Improve the Farm Economy, Water Quality, and Bioenergy Feedstock Production”.

Hilary Pierce

August 21 Webinar: 15 Years of Iowa Learning Farms

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Tune in on Wednesday, August 21 at 12:00 p.m. when Iowa Learning Farms will host a webinar about the evolution of Iowa Learning Farms (ILF) over the past 15 years and what new goals and challenges the future holds.

“ILF started with a simple idea: Building a Culture of Conservation in Iowa through helping farmers talk to other farmers about protecting Iowa’s soil and water,” said Dr. Jacqueline Comito, Iowa Learning Farms Program Director. “Through the years our tactics and tools have evolved, but the fundamental strategy of applying a multidisciplinary approach to increase adoption of conservation practices has led to increased practices and greater natural resource protection.” Comito will discuss ILF’s approach to outreach and education, and will also reference the “Building a Culture of Conservation – 2004-2019” 15-Year report, which was published in March 2019.

The 15-Year report highlights the program’s successes, growth and impacts, as well as some of the challenges faced and goals for the future. Some key findings from the report include that ILF farmer partners have expanded to included 88 farmers located in 51 Iowa counties, field days have grown from 5 to 32 annually and have engaged over 32,500 attendees, and cover crops were planted on more than 880,000 acres in 2018. These findings and more will be discussed during the webinar.

Don’t miss this webinar!
DATE: Wednesday, August 21, 2019
TIME: 12:00 p.m.
HOW TO PARTICIPATE: visit www.iowalearningfarms.org/page/webinars and click the link to join the webinar

More information about this webinar is available at our website. If you can’t watch the webinar live, an archived version will be available on our website:
https://www.iowalearningfarms.org/page/webinars.

Hilary Pierce

The Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy Measurement Project: Tracking Progress Towards Iowa’s Water Quality Goals

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Today at noon, Laurie Nowatzke, Measurement Coordinator for the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy at Iowa State University, discussed the progress and challenges of Iowa’s water quality improvement efforts.

Nowatzke_photo thumbnailThe webinar covered how progress towards the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy (NRS) is measured, how much progress has been made and what challenges remain. The NRS is a science-based strategy to reduce nutrients in surface water from both point and nonpoint sources. Nowatzke shared a brief history of the measurement tracking associated with the NRS and then discussed the recently published 2017-2018 Annual Progress Report.

She explained how the NRS uses a logic model framework to track quantifiable change in inputs, the human dimension, land use and water quality. The 2017-2018 Annual Progress Report shows an increase in funding for conservation practices and programs, mostly due to an increase in Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) rental payments. It also shows an increase in outreach and education events. Farmer attitudes towards and awareness of the conservation efforts is being measured through a five year survey. Summaries of the survey results for two HUC6 watersheds are available in the report.

INRS Logic Model

Image from the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy: 2017-2018 Annual Progress Report

Nowatzke also described how conservation practices are tracked, including the tracking of CRP land retirement, cover crop use, and the installation of bioreactors and saturated buffers. Water quality progress is assessed using a two-pronged approach of measuring nutrient concentrations in surface waters and modeling nutrient loss reductions that are associated with different conservation practices.

To learn more about how progress towards meeting the NRS goals is measured, how much progress has been made and the challenges that remain, watch the recorded webinar!

Join us next month, on Wednesday, August 21 at noon, when Jacqueline Comito, Iowa Learning Farms Program Director, will present an Iowa Learning Farms webinar titled “15 Years of Iowa Learning Farms”.

Hilary Pierce

July 17 Webinar: The Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy Measurement Project: Tracking Progress Towards Iowa’s Water Quality Goals

Join us on Wednesday, July 17 at noon, when Iowa Learning Farms will host a webinar about the progress towards Iowa’s water quality goals.

Nowatzke_photo thumbnailHow many acres of cover crops are planted each year in Iowa? Are extended rotations and perennials increasing? Laurie Nowatzke, Measurement Coordinator for the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy at Iowa State University, will discuss the progress and challenges of Iowa’s water quality improvement efforts by addressing these questions and others. Find out how progress is measured, where to find the data, and what questions remain about Iowa’s water quality improvement.

“Water quality challenges are on the minds of many Iowans. In this webinar, I hope to shed light on where we’re currently seeing progress in conservation practice adoption and where there are still challenges,” said Nowatzke. She hopes that webinar attendees will understand how conservation practice adoption in Iowa is tracked, the “bright spots” and challenges of water quality progress, and where to find data and information about Iowa’s water quality improvement efforts.

A Certified Crop Adviser board approved continuing education unit (CEU) is available for those who are able to watch the live webinar. Information for submitting your CCA/CPAg/CPSS/CPSC number to earn the credit will be provided at the end of the presentation.

Don’t miss this webinar!
DATE: Wednesday, July 17, 2019
TIME: 12:00 p.m.
HOW TO PARTICIPATE: visit www.iowalearningfarms.org/page/webinars and click the link to join the webinar

More information about this webinar is available at our website. If you can’t watch the webinar live, an archived version will be available on our website:
https://www.iowalearningfarms.org/page/webinars.

Hilary Pierce