AMES (PFI) - The Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy outlines various land management practices to reduce nutrient loss, improve soil and protect water quality.
Farmers who have successfully used different nutrient reduction strategies will present their experiences at the Practical Farmers of Iowa's 2014 annual conference, "Well Grounded," set for Jan. 24 and 25 at the Iowa State Center Scheman Building, on the Iowa State University campus in Ames.
The conference will feature several sessions, offered in partnership with Iowa Learning Farms, dedicated to exploring different aspects of the strategy, including:
An in-depth workshop on researchers' experiences moderated by a panel of researchers in nutrient reduction practices, from cover crops and wetlands to strip-tillage and prairie strips.
Cover crops and prairie strips featuring two farmers - Tim Smith of Eagle Grove and Seth Watkins of Clarinda - who, between them, have successfully implemented a bundle of nutrient-reducing practices on their farms, including cover crops, strip-till, a newly installed bioreactor and prairie strips.
Wetlands and buffers, featuring Allan Armbrecht, a row-crop farmer near Colo who uses a Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program wetland to improve water quality.
Conservation district commissioners who farm and their experiences and thoughts on current and future challenges of adopting the strategy.
Register online at www.practicalfarmers.org/events/annual-conference.html or contact Erica Andorf at (515) 232-5661. Special rates are available for students and PFI members.
The 2013 conference will also extend last year's focus on sustaining soil health with a spotlight on extended rotations that can diversify farm incomes and improve soil health.
"The strategy is voluntary at this point, and we need to hop on board and try to meet its goals," said Bob Lynch, a Soil and Water Conservation District commissioner from Humboldt County, who grows corn and soybeans near Gilmore City. "But change is hard.
"One challenge will be getting farmers or landowners to actually implement the practices. Some of that is knowing how to get started, and some of it is familiarity with how they've always done things."
Lynch said SWCD county commissioners using funds allocated by the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy to plant cover crops on prevented planting acres in northern Iowa.
"All 100 county-based commissioners can help spread the good word about these practices," Lynch said.
For more advanced cover croppers, Gabe Brown, who operates Brown's Ranch near Bismarck, N.D., with his wife and son and is called an "extreme cover cropper" will speak on his row crop and grazing farm.
"I started using cover crops in 1995 to keep the farm viable," said Brown. The family practices holistic management, zero-till cropping systems, polyculture cover crops, mob grazing and other measures.
"Now I realize the only way to regenerate our soils is with diversity," Brown said. "Depending on how degraded one's soil resources are, we can usually see positive change with cover crops in as little as two or three years."
Additional field crop sessions include
Rethinking your farm with cover crops, led by Brown.
One-on-One with Brown.
Q&A with Grain Millers on small grain opportunities
Adding value to a farm through diversification with Dave Bishop.
Practical oat production, led by Sam Raser, of Grain Millers Inc.; and Dan Wilson, Seven Wilson Farm, in Paullina.
Three profitable practices in a three-crop system, led by Dave Bishop, of PrairiErth Farm, central Illinois.
Pressing oilseed crops for fuel and food, led by Jake Wedeberg, of Gays Mills, Wisc.
Growing organic oilseed crops, led by Wedeberg.
Should GMO products be labeled?
U-Pick roundtable discussion.
Non-operator landowners and changing agriculture.
The conference will also feature keynote speaker Ricardo Salvador, with Union of Concerned Scientists; 18 other in-depth workshops covering topics including livestock, horticulture, estate planning and fermentation; eight Saturday morning breakfast sessions; five in-depth "U-Pick" sessions on topics chosen this fall by PFI members; and two pre-conference short courses - "Restoration agriculture 101" and "Achieve the triple bottom line with holistic management" that run from 1 p.m./ to 7 p.m. on Jan. 23 and continues from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Jan. 24.
For additional information visit practicalfarmers.org/events/annual-conference.html.