Midwest farmers are continually faced with the challenge of feeding a growing world while protecting and conserving natural resources. However, the Midwest has an advantage over other regions of the United States with its good soils, adequate rainfall, and intensive animal production systems. Livestock manure not only provides nutrients for crop production, but also helps improve soil quality.
The most overlooked value of manure is its ability to improve soil bulk density, aggregation, organic matter, and biological activity. "The increase in soil microbial activity provides the foundation for the increase in organic matter in the soil," says Dr. Jerry Hatfield, Director of the Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment at Iowa State University. "Organic matter increases are necessary for any improvement in soil quality and continual soil biological activity is needed as the sustaining factor in providing the mechanism for incorporating manure into a valuable soil resource."
Hatfield's team used on-farm evaluations of manure management to demonstrate that reducing tillage by using strip till systems as a method of incorporating liquid manure greatly improved soil quality. The increased aggregate stability increases the infiltration rate of rainfall into the soil and also decreases the potential for soil erosion.
Hatfield's research and other topics to be addressed at four-state conference
Hatfield's project is just one of the topics to be discussed at the second annual Driftless Region Beef Conference. The conference will take place January 30 and 31 at the Grand River Convention Center in Dubuque. The program starts at 1 p.m. on January 30 and runs until noon on January 31. Several speakers will focus on the competitive advantage of integrating beef production and cropping systems in the upper Midwest.
Along with Hatfield, other key speakers include Garland Dahlke, Patrick Gunn and Lee Schulz from ISU; Amber Radatz, Rhonda Gildersleeve and Brian Holmes from University of Wisconsin; Eric Mousel and Nicole Rambo from University of Minnesota; and Travis Meteer from the University of Illinois and Galen Erickson from the University of Nebraska.
Thursday afternoon will focus on the competitive advantage of grain and beef production systems. The evening includes Jamey Kohake from Paragon Investments talking about competition in the world marketplace. This presentation will be followed by a farmer panel discussion on extending the grazing season with cover crops and annuals. Friday morning's program includes three breakout sessions for feedlot operations and three for cow-calf herds.
The conference is sponsored by the University of Illinois Extension, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, the University of Minnesota Extension, and University of Wisconsin Extension. Registration for the conference is $80 before January 15 or $100 after that date. Registration is now open. Additional information about the conference is available at the ISU Extension and Outreach Ag and Natural Resources website.