Iowa crop producers received a variety of crop production information from Iowa State University Extension specialists at the ISU Crop Advantage programs held across the state during January. Each year more than 2,000 producers participate in regional Crop Advantage meetings to hear latest updates on crop, pest and nutrient management, and farm business topics. The meetings, coordinated by ISU Extension field agronomists, cover statewide topics as well as topics specific to the region.
The Iowa Nutrient Reduction strategy and opportunities for local watershed improvement was on many of the program agendas at the meetings this January. Jamie Benning, water quality program manager for ISU Extension, presented information on the topic.
Benning says, "The nutrient management topic generated great discussion during the Crop Advantage series. Producers will have many upcoming opportunities to continue that discussion and learn more about best practices to use for reducing nutrient loss into Iowa's waterways. At upcoming meetings they'll be able to talk to farmers who are implementing these practices."
Learning valuable lessons in cover crop management
One opportunity she points to is Iowa Learning Farms' recent webinar with special guest Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey. In the discussion, he talked about his personal experience with trying cover crops. He had some success and some failure, and learned some valuable lessons in cover crop management.
"I think in the longer term, cover crops are going to be a more important part of my land management practices, maybe more than my annual cropping expenses," says Northey. "It's an opportunity to build organic matter; it's an opportunity to keep soil in place, even though I have a no-till system where I don't have much soil move. But you know that you do have some soil move, in places like off of those side hills."
Farmers are showing a growing interest in cover crops
There is a growing interest in using cover crops for these reasons. Northey says that "the crowds are expanding at cover crop workshops … wanting to talk to the folks who are already trying cover crops. They talk to me and I've only done it one-and-a-half times. We are making progress but we still have a long way to go."
Link to the ILF webinar archive is: connect.extension.iastate.edu/p1ixyfca91s/
Benning also recommends the Soil and Water Conservation Society's Iowa Cover Crops Conference to be held Feb. 17-18 in West Des Moines as another opportunity to hear Iowa Ag Secretary Bill Northey, along with more than ten farmers, speaking about their experiences using cover crops. "As cover crops increase in popularity, there is more demand for the exchange of information and for conferences like this one which offer that experience," Benning notes.
She says the field agronomists with ISU Extension and Outreach and county extension offices are also valuable resources for producers interested in learning more about local events covering cover crop and nutrient management best practices.