A Conservation Chat with Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig

ILFHeader(15-year)Jacqueline Comito| Iowa Learning Farms Program Director

naig_comito_frame_webIowa’s Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig joined me for a live Conservation Chat as a part of the monthly Iowa Learning Farms (ILF) webinar on January 16. Secretary Naig was elected to office in November 2018, but has been in the role since spring of 2018 when he was appointed to fill the post when Bill Northey was confirmed as the U.S. undersecretary for farm production and conservation.

Mike joined the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship five years ago as deputy secretary. He noted that the opportunity to get involved in the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy from inception was one of the key reasons he moved from the private sector into government.

Mike grew up on a farm in Palo Alto county during the 1980s and saw the farm crisis firsthand. His parents and other farmers of their generation encouraged their children to find careers off the farm – so they would not have to experience the same challenges later in life. Mike took these sentiments to heart and continues to work to help ensure farmers in Iowa have the resources and opportunities to build successful and sustainable businesses.

When asked about his connection to the land, he expressed delight in the broad diversity of landscapes and natural settings across Iowa. He and his family love to explore the outdoors and enjoy everything Iowa has to offer. It also provides an opportunity to teach his three young sons about the importance of our natural resources and conservation.

Mike made it clear that it was time to significantly scale up implementation of the Nutrient Reduction Strategy. He noted “We are five years into implementation of the Nutrient Reduction Strategy. I am proud of what we’ve accomplished, but if we only do the same for the next five years, we will be seriously behind. This is the time to start scaling successful approaches so we can protect, preserve, and promote Iowa’s productivity and its most abundant natural resource – Texas has oil, Iowa has soil.”

We talked about urban and rural mindsets and how to bridge the understanding gap. “Pointing fingers and assigning blame does not move anyone in the right direction. Fostering mutual understanding of the impact any individual can have, regardless of whether they own a quarter acre lot in Ames or a quarter-section plot in northwest Iowa, is crucial to building a culture of conservation statewide.”

With new funding in the current budget year, the Department of Agriculture has hired additional employees to address conservation practices in several major watershed areas. They are also working with private-sector organizations and partners to expand conservation efforts, outreach and education. Iowa Learning Farms and Water Rocks! are examples of partners in conservation and education that help deliver these messages. “We partner and contract with organizations such as Iowa State University to take advantage of the innovation, skilled minds, and advanced research that isn’t available elsewhere. The allow us to do the most with what we have and continue to move toward our goals.”

Mike stressed that farmers needed to look at conservation practices with a broad lens. “You can’t just look at cover crops or tiling or bioreactors and saturated buffers as individual things, you must look at the full scope of improving soil health, employing edge of field practices in combination with tile, and ultimately maintaining or improving productivity and water quality.”

I noted that he had appropriated ILF’s Culture of Conservation tagline during his campaign and asked what that means to him. “It means thinking about conservation as priority. If Iowa wants to continue to be a global production leader, it’s crucial to protect and conserve what makes that leadership possible. And to do it through conservation, not regulation.” Mike agreed that youth education is an important piece of the culture of conservation puzzle, and changing the mindset and approach in Iowa will take a long time and must become inherent to the thinking of current and future generations. “You’re not going to reach everyone right away, just like in marketing any idea or product, there will be early adopters through late adopters. Our challenge is to build out a message to entice and encourage adoption of a lasting change over time.”

More Conservation Chats

Be sure to view the archive visit with Mike Naig on our website.

Our conversation will also be released as a Conservation Chat podcast available at the Conservation Chat website and here on iTunes. New Conservation Chat podcasts will be released every month. February’s Chat will be a conversation with Dr. Matt Helmers, Director of the Iowa Nutrient Research Center and Jamie Benning, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach water quality program manager.

Please join us live for next Iowa Learning Farms Webinar February 20 at 12:00 PM with Dr. Amy Kaleita, Iowa State University professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering. The topic will be: Farmed Prairie Potholes – Consequences and Management Options.

Jacqueline

January 16 Webinar – A Conservation Chat with Secretary Naig

ILFHeader(15-year)Wednesday, January 16th at 12:30pm Iowa Learning Farms will kick off our 15th anniversary by hosting a webinar with Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig.

Naig_Central Iowa Fair 2018The webinar will feature ILF program manager Dr. Jacqueline Comito and Secretary Naig discussing conservation, water quality and the Secretary’s vision for Iowa.  They will also discuss the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy and how Iowans are working to meet the nitrogen and phosphorus loss reductions outlined in the Strategy. Webinar participants will be able to submit questions for Secretary Naig during the webinar through the Zoom Webinar software.

Don’t miss this webinar!
DATE: Wednesday, January 16, 2019
TIME: 12:30 p.m.
HOW TO PARTICIPATE: 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.

Liz Juchems

#NoTillb4Beans and #CoverYourBeans: Doing Less, Earning More

ILFHeaderHow can doing less earn you more?

Mark Licht discussed how you can do just that by making the transition to no-till soybean and adding a cover crop ahead of soybeans during our Iowa Learning Farms webinar yesterday.

Compared to conventional systems with a fall and spring tillage pass, no-till can lower input costs by about $30, while also saving the time not running the equipment. By lowering input costs overall profit per acre can be increased by nearly 17%, according to a 10 year research study at seven ISU research farms.

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No-till can also significantly reduce soil erosion and phosphorus loss, compared to chisel plowing.  That same 10 year study, showed a 90% reduction in phosphorus loss.

Cover crops also help reduce soil erosion and phosphorus loss, while also reducing nitrogen losses from the landscape. Mark noted that cover crops are an easy entry point for farmers and landowners to voluntarily help meet the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy goals. If 75% of Iowa soybean acres were seeded to a cover crops, we would reach 60% of our nutrient reduction goal!

75CC

According to a nine year study by the Iowa Learning Farms and Practical Farmers of Iowa, the long-term use of winter cereal rye shows no yield impact on soybeans in most years. In fact, for eight sites there was an average 8 bu/ac increase following cereal rye.

If you’re curious on how to make the transition to #notillb4beans and #coveryourbeans, be sure to tune in to the full webinar here as Mark provides tips for making it work for you.

Be sure to join us in this campaign and share your stories and pictures using the #notillb4beans and #coveryourbeans hashtags!

Liz Juchems

December Webinar – Saving time and money with #NoTillb4Beans and #CoverYourBeans

ILFHeaderOn Wednesday, December 12 at noon Dr. Mark Licht, Assistant Professor of Agronomy and Extension Cropping Systems Specialist, will be discussing the #NoTillb4Beans and #CoverYourBeans campaigns launched by the Conservation Learning Group to highlight the potential for time and money savings with no-tillage and cover crops ahead of soybean.

Licht’s extension, research and teaching program is focused on how to holistically manage Iowa cropping systems to achieve productivity, profitability and environmental goals. No-tillage and cover crop adoption are two practices that provide large environmental benefits for reducing phosphorus and nitrogen losses. The #NoTillb4Beans and #CoverYourBeans campaigns focus on how these practices ahead of soybean as an easy entry point with no adverse effects on productivity.

“If Iowa’s nearly 10 million acres of soybean were no-till planted into a cover crop we would nearly reach the 10.5 million no-tillage and 12.5 million cover crop acres called for in the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy,” stated Licht. “Cover crops ahead of soybean can lead to an average 8 bushel/ac yield advantage and no-till planting lowers input costs and saves time.”

Don’t miss this webinar!

DATE: Wednesday, December 12, 2018
TIME: 12:00 p.m.
HOW TO PARTICIPATE: 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.

Liz Juchems

November Webinar: Evaluating nutrient reduction at the delivery scale

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On Wednesday, November 14th at noon Dr. Matt Helmers, Professor Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering and Director of the Iowa Nutrient Research Center, will discussing the innovative Conservation Learning Lab (CLL) project that is key to understanding impacts of in-field conservation practices beyond the research plot scale.

The webinar is a remote training opportunity for all stakeholders, including watershed coordinators, who are working on watershed improvement projects and implementation of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy.

CLL LogoThe CLL is providing the opportunity to examine how in-field conservation practices impact nutrient loss at the scale at which water and nutrients are delivered to the stream. Through one-on-one meetings with farmers to complete the conservation planning process, the project team has helped these farmers implement cover crops, strip-tillage and CRP on their land. Pre-implementation and preliminary post-implementation water quality data will be shared from ongoing monitoring within the project areas.

“This research is critical to understanding impacts of in-field management beyond the plot scale,” commented Helmers. “Examining the results of large-scale adoption of practices at delivery-scale is critical to meeting the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy goals. It is also important to note the high amount of time and human capital needed to get farmer and landowner adoption of conservation practices at the level of implementation we need.”

Don’t miss this webinar!

DATE: Wednesday, November 14, 2018
TIME: 12:00 p.m.
HOW TO PARTICIPATE: 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.

Liz Juchems

Wet spots – losing more than just crop yields

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With all the rain these last few weeks, Dr. Steven Hall’s webinar on understanding and managing nitrogen losses from prairie potholes provides great insight as to what is happening in those ponded areas in our cropping landscape.

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When discussing nitrogen loss in Iowa and across the Corn Belt, the focus is often on the nitrate that is leached to local waterbodies and the Gulf of Mexico. However, the Corn Belt is also the leading source of nitrous oxide – the third most important greenhouse gas!

As a neglected pollutant, nitrous oxide is now the most important ozone-depleting substance. Local estimates of emissions are 3-4% of nitrogen inputs applied to agricultural land. Due to the concentration of agricultural production, the Corn Belt nitrous oxide emission from soil and water are a leading cause of climate change.

N20 map

Here in Iowa, the majority of the pothole wetlands are found in the Des Moines lobe region of central and north central Iowa. Pothole depressions comprise about 9% of the Des Moines lobe with the majority of them partially drained and cropped. These farmed wet spots become hot spots for nitrogen loss and contribute a disproportionate amount of nitrous oxide and nitrate to our environment.

As Emily Heaton pointed out her recent post, there are management alternatives for the pothole depressions that can help reduce these losses and potentially improve the bottom line for landowners.

Check out the full webinar here to learn more about these alternatives and the case studies Dr. Hall and his team are exploring here in Iowa.


You can catch up on all of our webinars by visiting our website.  While you are there, be sure to check out our Conservation Chat podcast series!


Liz Juchems

October 17 Webinar: Wet spots as hot spots for nitrogen losses

On Wednesday, October 17th at noon Dr. Steven Hall, Iowa State University assistant professor of ecology, evolution, and organismal biology, will present a webinar that aims to improve the understanding and management of nitrogen losses from hydric soil landscapes.

05209012018WLThe leaching of nitrate and emissions of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas, are key environmental impacts of Corn Belt agricultural systems. Dr. Steven Hall is leading a research group that studies the biological and geochemical processes that control the cycling of organic matter and nutrients across the plant-soil-water-atmosphere continuum.  One of their focus areas is the interactions across that continuum in former prairie potholes. These occasionally flooded hydric soils in topographic depressions can contribute disproportionately to nitrogen losses at the landscape scale, suggesting the promise of management interventions that specifically target these features.

“Crop nitrogen use efficiency, farm profitability, and environmental impacts of nitrogen loss are intimately connected,” commented Hall. “Innovative management of cropped hydric soils could yield disproportionate environmental and economic benefits.”

Don’t miss this webinar!

DATE: Wednesday, October 17, 2018
TIME: 12:00 p.m.
HOW TO PARTICIPATE: 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.

Liz Juchems