Low hanging fruit?

Low hanging fruit?

Nitrogen rate management (MRTN) is the low-hanging fruit of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy, a win-win for profitability and the environment.  On closer inspection, that fruit is even juicier than we thought; but harder to reach.   Here’s the paradox of nutrient management that the general public fails to grasp.  We don’t know with any certainty at application time how much nitrogen the corn crop will need or how much nitrogen will be left in the soil come July when the crop starts maturing.  Corn stalk nitrogen tests and split applications can improve the accuracy of the guess, but farmers still have to guess.  If they guess too low, they lose income.  So most farmers err on the high side, which means that (all else being equal) more nitrogen will end up in our streams. Figure by John Sawyer at ISU.  The economically optimum nitrogen rate varies by year, even on the same field. We may not know what’s the right amount of nitrogen...
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Conservation Champions around the Squaw Creek Watershed

Conservation Champions around the Squaw Creek Watershed

This spring, planting season took off in the State of Iowa as the temperatures warmed up in the soils. We are seeing a multitude of conservation practices at work in the Squaw Creek watershed with each farmer implementing what works best on their land. Strip Tillage One farmer hard at work out in the field is Jeremy Gustafson, a diversified farmer who grows corn and soybeans along with raising hogs in the Squaw Creek Watershed. Gustafson, a Soil and Water Conservation District Commissioner for Boone County, implements strip-tillage as a conservation practice to protect his soil from erosion.  Gustafson comes from a multi-generational family farm and has been managing his farm with conservation in mind for over ten years. Strip tillage is a conservation tillage system in which only strips of soil are worked before planting. This allows for the soil to warm up and dry out for planting. Seeds are then planted directly into the strips. This practice improves the soil health and water quality...
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Field Day: Soil and Water Health in Action

On November 7, 2015 Prairie Rivers of Iowa hosted an informational field day which included a tour of two farms near Stratford, Iowa. The beautiful, crisp day filled with sunshine and pastoral landscape views created a perfect setting for learning about soil and water conservation practices such as prairie buffers, filter strips, wetlands, rotational grazing, and cover crops. The highlight of the day for many of the attendees was the hay-rack tour. It was a classic way to learn about two Iowa farms and their stewards. It's definitely safe to say that both the farmers and the group covered a lot of ground. The first stop of the tour was at a ridge on Jim and Anita Johnson's farm, Prairie Hill Farm of Hamilton County. From this location you could see the prairie field borders, a prairie filter strip, and a wetland surrounded by a large riparian area. This area intercepts water draining off their farmland, which includes rotational cattle pasture and row crops. It also intercepts some...
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