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Producer Opportunities To Learn About Local Watershed Improvement Strategies

By Jamie Benning, Willy Klein, Carol Brown
Iowa crop producers received a variety of crop production information from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach at 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 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. Jamie Benning, water quality program manager for ISU Extension and Outreach, presented on the topics.
Benning said, “The 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 for reducing nutrient loss into Iowa’s waterways and talk to farmers who are implementing practices.”
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] is going to be a part of my land management practices more than my annual cropping expenses,” said 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, in places like off those side hills.”
There is a growing interest in using cover crops for these reasons. Northey said 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:
Benning also recommends the Soil and Water Conservation Society’s Iowa Cover Crops Conference Feb. 17-18 in West Des Moines as another opportunity to hear Sec. 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 exchange of information and conferences like this one offer that experience,” Benning said.
Benning said the field agronomist with ISU Extension and Outreach and county extension offices are valuable resources for producers interested in learning more about local events covering cover crop and nutrient management best practices.

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