Agronomy in the Field participants learn about plant population and spacing
HANDS-ON: Participants at an Agronomy in the Field session learned how to evaluate plant population and plant spacing variability to make replant decisions.

ISU’s Women in Ag program growing

Cropping Systems: Agronomy in the Field offers an expanded series of learning sessions for woman landowners and farmers.

By Angela Rieck-Hinz

The need for women’s programming in agriculture is evident with over 32,000 woman farmers in Iowa, managing just over 9 million acres. Of that group, 7,108 are listed as principal operators, representing about 870,000 acres, according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service’s 2012 Census of Agriculture.

Agronomy in the Field is just one of many courses offered for women by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Agronomy in the Field is a multisession workshop offered to woman landowners, farmers, conservationists, retailers and other women interested in learning more about agronomic and conservation practices. Hands-on field sessions start in late April and continue throughout the growing season. Field sessions include the basics of planting, such as soil conditions and temperature, planting depth, seeding rates, plant populations and troubleshooting.

Summer sessions continue with crop staging, weed, disease and insect identification, as well as management decisions based on economic thresholds for insects. Water quality, soil conservation practices and soil health are also discussed. The growing season sessions usually wrap up with soil sampling. During winter, classroom-type sessions are hosted live, as well as via a teleconferencing system that allows participants to join from all over Iowa. Classroom sessions include topics such as soil fertility, pesticide resistance and GMOs. 

More locations being offered
The goals of the program are to strengthen agronomic skills for women, including decision-making, inputs for crop production, water quality and conservation practices, and communication with spouse, farming partner, ag retailer or tenant.

ISU’s Agronomy in the Field program was recently awarded a grant to expand the number of locations. The partnership grant is from the North Central Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program. NCR-SARE’s Partnership Grant Program is intended to foster cooperation between ag professionals and small groups of farmers and ranchers to catalyze on-farm research, demonstration and education activities related to sustainable agriculture. The farmer-partners for this workshop series lead discussions on cover crops and grazing.

Women encouraged to sign up
Agronomy in the Field was initiated in 2015 at the Northern Iowa Research Farm at Kanawha. In 2016, it expanded to three locations, Kanawha, Otho and Crawfordsville. The three cohorts were made up of nearly 60 women. In 2017, it will expand to five locations, the SE Iowa Research Farm at Crawfordsville, the McNay Research Farm at Chariton, the Benton/Iowa Cohort, the Field Extension Education Lab near Boone, and in Guthrie County. To date, nearly 300 women have been impacted by this.

There are many groups in Iowa that support women in agriculture. Women, Land and Legacy, Iowa Agri-Women, Iowa Women in Ag, Women, Food and Ag Network and local groups are some examples of the opportunities that exist for women to explore. For more information, go online for information on groups for women in farming.

Rieck-Hinz is the ISU Extension field agronomist in north central Iowa. Contact her at [email protected].

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