Cover Crops Can Pay! – Environmental Defense Fund Study Concludes Financial Benefits

Cover Crops Can Pay! – Environmental Defense Fund Study Concludes Financial Benefits

A recent study published by the Environmental Defense Fund outlines the financial benefits of cover crops in a row-crop operation. This, coupled with the environmental benefits, creates a practice that is both practical and vital to our state. This study used an agricultural accounting firm, called K-Coe Isom, to take an in-depth look at three producer's financial books after using cover crops and no-till. One of the farmers in the study is from Nevada, Iowa and the other two farmers are from Kansas and Ohio. Items that were considered for the study were fertilizer costs, herbicide costs, and crop yields after long-term use of cover crops and no-till. The budget categories identified were revenue, input costs, variable costs, and fixed costs. Key Findings from the study include: Conservation practices can pay. Farmers who adopted conservation practices - combinations of no-till, cover crops, nutrient optimization, and crop rotations - reported a cascade of cost savings throughout their budgets, including lower fertilizer, labor, fuel, and equipment...
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Historical Gas-Food-Lodging Stop at the Reed-Niland Corner

Historical Gas-Food-Lodging Stop at the Reed-Niland Corner

If you are looking for a unique, historical experience in middle America look no further than the Reed-Niland Corner in Colo, Iowa. This restored cafe, motel, and museum-like gas station location is a premiere stop on the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway. Whether it is the enticing good food, more-than-reasonable motel rates, or glow of the neon light in the Iowa landscape, this one-stop location has an appeal for the traveler like no other location in Iowa or even in the nation.                                               Photo credits: City of Colo It is literally in the middle of America. The Lincoln Highway was designated in 1913 and runs east and west at the north side of the town of Colo. It is now known as County Road E41. The Lincoln Highway begins in Times Square in New York and travels to San Francisco in California. The...
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Upcoming Events: Native Plant Management & Gully Erosion Workshops

Upcoming Events: Native Plant Management & Gully Erosion Workshops

You're Invited to two upcoming workshops we are co-hosting with Story County Conservation! This series is called "Conservation Conversations" and we will be discussing and doing hands-on activities to learn about various conservation topics. This first workshop is on Tuesday, September 25th from 5-7PM and there is no cost to attend. This workshop will be focused on native lands management. The second workshop is on Saturday, October 13 from 9AM - 4PM and costs $15 for the day. This workshop will focus on gully erosion and practices to fight erosion. Please call 515.232.0048 to RSVP to either or both of these events! ...
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Bioreactors: A Crucial Practice in Nutrient Reduction for Iowa

Bioreactors: A Crucial Practice in Nutrient Reduction for Iowa

On a warm summer evening in July, landowners, farmers, and community citizens gathered together at Iowa State’s Field Extension Education Laboratory to learn what they can about the benefits and a little science behind denitrifying bioreactors. A denitrifying bioreactor is a subsurface trench at the edge of a field usually filled with hardwood chips, installed to reduce nitrate concentration in the tile water that it diverts. The wood chips are the carbon source that contains the bacteria needed to breakdown the nitrates in the water to convert into nitrogen gas.   The participants were able to see a bioreactor in action and heard from Iowa Learning Farms expert, Liz Juchems about the benefits to having a bioreactor and how it can help in the effort to improving water quality. She explained that using bioreactors alone in the state in all of the identified appropriate areas would reduce the nitrates that end up in our waterways by 43%, which exceeds the 41% goal...
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Registration open for 2018 Master River Stewards Program

Registration open for 2018 Master River Stewards Program

Update Aug 27:  The class has been cancelled due to low enrollment.  Hopefully we can offer the program or a variation again in spring   If you'd like to get an in-depth understanding of rivers but missed our Master River Stewards class last summer, here's another chance.  This year, we're offering the course to retirees in a two-part (lecture + lab) format.  If you are not physically able to wade in streams or can't commit to the required volunteer hours, you may register for the lecture only. Lecture OLLI Open House, August 9, 10:30-11:45AM, ISU Alumni Center Registration opens August 9 for our River Stewardship class, offered through OLLI at ISU (formerly ISU College for Seniors) for anyone aged 50 and older.  The course is adapted from the Master River Stewards Program developed by Iowa Rivers Revival, and covers watersheds, river and stream dynamics, riparian habitat and wildlife, river chemistry and water monitoring, stream restoration, and agricultural conservation practices. Jerry Keys, the environmental education coordinator...
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Local Leaders Tour Watershed to Learn About Practices that Improve Water Quality

Local Leaders Tour Watershed to Learn About Practices that Improve Water Quality

Along with a quarterly formal business meeting, the Squaw Creek Watershed Management Authority Board visits a site in the watershed to learn more about practices that improve soil health and water quality.   The Squaw Creek Watershed Management Authority Board is comprised of a representative from the cities, counties, and soil & water conservation districts in the Squaw Creek Watershed. The are representatives from the cities of Stanhope, Stratford, Gilbert, and Ames; the county board of supervisors from Boone and Story County; and the soil & water conservation districts in Hamilton, Boone, and Story County. Although it is common misconception of the word 'authority' in their title, the group acts as more of an alliance of communities and counties coming together to support each other in their efforts in water quality improvement.   July's quarterly meeting offered a glimpse at an uncommon site in Hamilton County - a dairy cow herd. Kevin and Ranae Dietzel operate their dairy herd business, called Lost Lake Farms,...
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Nutrient loading is like… beer

Nutrient loading is like… beer

On June 14, Squaw Creek rose to flood stage.  On the same day, nitrate concentrations in Squaw Creek dropped from 11.8 mg/L to 2.7 mg/L.  Does that mean that June’s storm clouds had a silver lining for Iowa’s nutrient reduction efforts?  I'm afraid not. The nitrate concentration in a river is an important number if (like the Des Moines Water Works) you’re treating it for drinking water and need to stay below 10 mg/L. However, when it comes to hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico, the number that matters is the nitrate load that is sent downstream: the nitrate concentration in the water times the flow of water in the river. Not following me?  Ponder this analogy.  Nutrient loading is like beer.  I enjoy craft beer and have learned to pay close attention to the alcohol by volume number, which can range from 5% in a lager to 10% in an imperial IPA.  In order to avoid having my judgement impaired, I...
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Soil as Sponges

Soils that are rich in organic matter act like sponges, soaking up heavy rains rather than allowing water to pond or run off the surface. By reducing runoff, healthy soils prevent sediment, nutrients, and other pollutants from washing into lakes and rivers. A spongy soil can also hang on to more water after the excess has drained, helping sustain crops through dry periods. Healthy soils can help reduce the negative effects of both floods and droughts, benefiting crops and downstream communities. Healthy soils can also be sponges for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, with the potential to help prevent destructive climate change by storing more carbon in the form of organic matter. Find out how you can turn your soil into sponges: In Town On the Farm During construction, topsoil is often removed and remaining soils are compacted by heavy equipment.  Soils in a new development act more like concrete than sponges.  It can take decades for plant roots and freezing and thawing to reverse...
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Watershed Awareness Month

Watershed Awareness Month

Everyone lives in a watershed.  What's your watershed?  June is a good month to find out, and learn more about what can be done to reduce and clean the runoff leaving your farm or your neighborhood. Story County Board of Supervisors and Conservation Board proclaimed June 2018 to be Watershed Awareness Month.  Over the last two weeks, the cities of Ames, Nevada, and Gilbert have made similar proclamations. We applaud their commitment to water quality.  The full text of the Story County proclamation is included below, along with scans of the proclamations by the cities (click the thumbnail to download a PDF). WATERSHED AWARENESS MONTH PROCLAMATION June 2018 WHEREAS, the county’s rivers and lakes provide recreational opportunities and wildlife habitats that enhance the quality of life of Story County residents, and   WHEREAS, protecting and restoring the quality of groundwater and surface water is a goal of the Story County Comprehensive Plan, and   WHEREAS, water quality and flooding issues in rivers and lakes cannot be mitigated without good...
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