By Julie Whitson
If you’re looking for a podcast that combines agriculture, conservation and people who drive innovation and change in Iowa, look no further than the Iowa Learning Farms Conservation Chat podcast series. Hosted by ILF’s program director, Jacqueline Comito, this podcast explores the relationship between conservation, soil, water, agriculture and the people of Iowa. Each monthly episode features a farmer, researcher, leader or topic related to conservation in Iowa.
The Conservation Chat podcast features many Iowa farmers, including Nathan Anderson of Cherokee County, Sally Hollis of Black Hawk County, and Paul and Nancy Ackley of Taylor County. These farmers talk about their farms, changes they’ve made over time and what drives them to innovate. The Ackleys describe how adding no-till and cover crops to their farm was a response to what they were seeing on the land.
“One thing for me that’s always resonated,” Paul says, is “when you drive down the road, and we have terraces standing full of water and there’s all green rye above it, and you go by another place, and they’ve done full-blown tillage and it looks like chocolate malt ran down the hill. Pretty soon, it begins to click in your mind.”
The Conservation Chat podcast has candid conversations with farmers, describing their triumphs and difficulties as they adapt to the needs of their farms and the land.
Conservation Chat interviews the people behind innovative research on issues such as soil erosion, precision agriculture, and the ins and outs of implementing conservation practices. In a recent episode, associate professor Amy Kaleita with the Iowa State University Ag and Biosystems Engineering Department talks about how precision ag can be an incredibly important tool for farmers to gather information and make decisions.
“You wouldn’t want to decide you needed to add more fertilizer to an area that was really depressed in yield due to water issues,” said Kaleita. “Precision agriculture can give farmers a wealth of information on how to better assess their farm conditions and challenges.”
Rick Cruse, professor of agronomy at ISU, talks soil erosion trends in Episode 13 of the Chat. He says, “We are losing, on average across Iowa, 5 to 5½ tons of soil per acre per year. We have areas across the state where we’re consistently eroding — moving soil off of hillslopes at a rate of about 40 to 50 tons per acre every year.”
Cruse’s modeling with the Iowa Daily Erosion Project indicates we are losing soil in Iowa at an alarming rate. By implementing conservation practices and land use changes, the trend of soil loss can be slowed.
Listen to the Conservation Chat on the ILF website. You can also download the podcast on your smartphone using the podcast app of your choice. Search for “The Conservation Chat.”
Whitson is an educator and evaluation specialist with Iowa Learning Farms.