corn field
Soybean Field Rows with corns and wheat

Rotationally Raised: Freedom from Inputs

Side-by-side comparisons were what got PFI started in the first place, back in the farm crisis of the 1980s.

Science can do more than develop new technology to improve crop productivity. It can also teach farmers lessons that can enable them to save money. By adding additional crops — and in some cases livestock — to their farming operations, many farmers across the state have been able to reduce the amount of purchased inputs they rely on.

With decreased reliance on purchased inputs comes independence. For many farmers, that ability to independently make decisions about their farms and lives is a big reason why they’re farmers. Episode 2 of Rotationally Raised, “Freedom from Inputs,” goes to the roots of Practical Farmers of Iowa – conducting on-farm research to reduce input costs and take better care of our land and communities. 

Side-by-side comparisons were what got PFI started in the first place, back in the farm crisis of the 1980s. That tradition of strips trials, started by PFI co-founder Dick Thompson, has been carried on by Matt Liebman in his work at Iowa State University’s Marsden Farm over the past 15 years.

Back in 1998 when Matt arrived in Iowa, he saw crop and livestock diversity as the key to successful, sustainable farms — including Thompson’s farm — and set to work designing a long-term research study to quantify some of the benefits. Nearly two decades later, he and other colleagues have published numerous findings related to profitability, crop production, weed dynamics, soil health, water quality, disease suppression and more.

Practical Farmers of Iowa owes a big thanks to Matt Liebman of Iowa State University for this one. Not only for taking the time to be interviewed for this episode, but for the work he’s done over the last couple decades for the members of PFI and for the state of Iowa as a whole. If you’re interested more in Matt’s research, see his website or check out a presentation he gave at PFI’s Small Grains Short Course last year.

And if you’re interested more in weed management, come to the PFI conference January 20-21 in Ames. (Register now!) Matt will be presenting about Managing Weeds More Successfully on Saturday morning from 8:30 to 9:40 a.m. 

If you want to learn more about this initiative to get more small grains in the corn belt or you’re interested in taking part in a pilot project by growing small grains for the first time on your farm, contact Sarah Carlson at [email protected]. To learn more about small grains in Iowa, visit practicalfarmers.org/small-grains/.

Editor’s Note: Ohde is the research and media coordinator for Practical Farmers of Iowa in Ames.

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