Reflection on Soil Health Equipment and Tools Field Day

On a warm Saturday July afternoon, 77 Squaw Creek Watershed farmers and community members gathered at Al Lingren’s farm in Ogden for a field day on soil health equipment and tools. The day began in the barn with a meal provided by Smokin’ Big Dawgs BBQ out of Boone, as well as some great conversations among the field day attendees. To start the formal part of the day began with Reed Riskedahl, Prairie Rivers of Iowa Board President, welcoming the attendees and informing them of Prairie Rivers of Iowa’s role in the watershed. Hanna Bates, Project Coordinator, then spoke on the cost-share available to Squaw Creek Watershed farmers through the Water Quality Initiative Grant. Following Hanna’s presentation, Kevin Griggs, representing Squaw Creek Watershed Management Authority Board, spoke on the role of the management authority board, as well as some personal advice as an experienced professional in conservation. The final presentation was from our valued Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, Bill Northey. Mr....
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Watershed & Waterways Program Education Update

The Natural Resources Education team has been busy these last couple of months with creation and delivery of programming and outreach activities!   Ames EcoFair Natural Resources Educator, Annie, had a booth at the Ames EcoFair on April 2nd at Ames City Hall. At the event, she had a "Soil in a Cup" activity, where she used chocolate cookies, pudding, graham crackers, green licorice, and gummy worms to represent different layers of soil, plant matter, and animal life in the soil. This lesson was extremely fun and delicious for the kids (and adults, too!) and was very education-oriented on soil health and conservation. We will definitely be using this activity in the future!   Iowa Children's Water Festival Annie, Natural Resources Educator, and Kayla, Education Assistant, along with Laurelin, Lincoln Highway Intern, presented at the Iowa Children's Water Festival on the DMACC Campus in Ankeny on May 12th. Kayla (with Laurelin as the assistant) presented a 30-minute formal presentation on the importance of indicator species in our waterways...
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Climate Change Impacts on U.S. Midwest Row Crop Agriculture

Climate Change Impacts on U.S. Midwest Row Crop Agriculture

I have done quite a bit of research on climate change and its impacts on Iowa agriculture in the past couple of weeks. This post is to summarize what I have learned, discovered, and still have questions about. The information sources I used were unanimous in a few things, including the fact that our climate naturally changes over time, humans (urban and rural) are speeding up the climate change process, and the effects that climate change will have on our beloved Earth are detrimental. According to the National Academy of Sciences, “it is unequivocal that the climate is changing, and it is very likely that this is prominently caused by increased human interferences with the atmosphere. These changes will transform the environmental conditions on Earth unless counter-measures are taken. Our present energy course is not sustainable.” Scientists have identified the culprit as emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxides (N2O), methane (CH4), and other “greenhouse gases” that build up in the atmosphere,...
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Nutrients in November Workshop Recap

The Prairie Rivers of Iowa Watershed and Waterways Program just wrapped up its Nutrients in November Workshop Series! This three-workshop series provided educational programming on tools and conservation practices to help farmers and landowners improve the water quality in the Squaw Creek Watershed and other surrounding areas. The first workshop was held on November 2nd in Boone and had ten people in attendance, This workshop was led by Dr. Lisa Schulte-Moore of the  Natural Resources Ecology and Management Department at Iowa State University along with PhD student Carrie Chennault. They presented on an online land use decision-making tool called People in Ecosystems/Watershed Integration (PEWI). PEWI is a simple spreadsheet tool designed to provide a scientific platform for teaching, discussing, and evaluating the trade-offs associated with agricultural land use and management. PEWI encourages users to think through the different ecosystem services that different agricultural practices and plant life provide in the watershed and their associated trade-offs. Users of the tool can experiment...
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Now available: Online Form to Request Financial and Technical Assistance!

Are you a farmer or landowner in the Squaw Creek Watershed interested in using conservation practices on your land? You have come to the right place! Cost-share programming is available through Prairie Rivers of Iowa for no-till, buffer strips, cover crops, extended crop rotations, bioreactors, and perennial plantings. Farmers and landowners who are a first-time user of the conservation practice, have not used the practice for at least two years on planted acres, or are installing an additional structural practice are eligible for our cost-share program. We know that no farm field is the same, and so we will find the conservation practices that work best for your land.    Cost-share for no-till is $10/acre and $25/acre for cover crops. Other practices include: extended crop rotations, saturated buffers, bioreactors, buffer strips, and perennial plantings at50% cost-share. More information is available on each of the practices upon request via our website or a call to the Prairie Rivers of Iowa office (515-232-0048). We now...
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Nutrients in November: Final Workshop on Tuesday 11/17!

The final workshop in Prairie Rivers of Iowa’s “Nutrients in November” workshop series will be held on November 17th from 6-8 PM in the Gilbert Franklin Community Room at Gilbert City Hall. The workshop will feature RetaiN Iowa: On-farm Nitrate Testing Kits. Jamie Benning from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach will show how to use a simple test that farmers and landowners can use to measure the amount of nitrates leaving field tiles. Attendees will be able to take home a free nitrate testing kit to try on their own land! Admission is free and will include light refreshments. Please RSVP online at www.prrcd.org/workshops or to Hanna Bates, Watershed Coordinator via phone at 515-232-0048 or via email at hbates@prrcd.org. ...
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Iowa Environmental Council Conference 2014

In October, myself and Erv, one of our board members, attended the Iowa Environmental Council Annual Conference at Drake University. The theme of the day was Engage in your Future: Creating a Healthier, Sustainable Tomorrow. The overall theme that I felt they were portraying was the idea of a world of education about climate change. Throughout the day, the presented facts that backed up climate change, how and why it was happening, and what we as environmentally responsible citizens can do about it. Dr. Anthony Leiserowitz, Director of Yale Project on Climate Change Communication was the keynote speaker of the morning. He made it clear-cut in my mind when he said "climate change..it is here, it is now, and its our fault. He talked about his research on understanding what United States citizens understood and thought about climate change. The general consensus was that the majority Americans believe that climate change is a real thing affecting our world. The problem with what...
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DIG DEEPER: Mysteries in the Soil

As you go about your busy day, did you ever stop and ponder about how you are treating the soil and water that you come into contact with? In celebration of National Soil and Water Conservation Week, I challenge you to take a moment to do so. One way that a producer could conserve the soil and water quality and quantity is by enrolling the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP). " In exchange for removing environmentally sensitive land from production and introducing conservation practices, farmers, ranchers, and agricultural land owners are paid an annual rental rate. Participation is voluntary, and the contract period is typically 10–15 years, along with other federal and state incentives as applicable per each CREP agreement." This program is just one example of how you can get involved in making a difference to the world that we so often take for granted. To learn more about the CREP Program, visit https://www.fsa.usda.gov/FSA/webapp?area=home&subject=copr&topic=cep    Photo Credit: http://www.iowaagriculture.gov/waterresources/CREP.asp...
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Artsy Turn on Learning History

During the winter round of the capstone events through the Kids on the Byway Program, Joyce and Bob Ausberger, members of the Iowa Lincoln Highway Association came into Kate Mitchell Elementary 5th grade classrooms to talk about the Lincoln Highway. They brought along artifacts, photos, and many very interesting stories about the history of the Lincoln Highway and its important role in the Westward Movement of North America. They also presented a contest to the students that involved some Lincoln Highway prizes. The contest consisted of the students in those two classes drawing pictures, making art projects, or anything else creative that represented the meaning of the Lincoln Highway. The capstone event was educational, and the students really enjoyed this artful of learning about history. Below is a photo of one of the entries from a Kate Mitchell 5th grade student for the Lincoln Highway contest. Click below to go to the Iowa Lincoln Highway Webpage http://www.iowalincolnhighway.org/ILHA_history           ...
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