AMES, Iowa — Iowa Learning Farms (ILF) will sponsor a strip-tillage and cover crop management field day at the Ann Smeltzer Charitable Trust Farm, south of Otho in Webster County, on Wednesday, July 20, from 6-8 p.m. The field day is free, includes a complimentary dinner and the public is invited to attend.
The field day will focus on strip-tillage and cover crop management. Attendees can view in-field demonstrations of mole knife and dual-coulter style strip-till equipment and discuss strip-till management with Gary and Dave Nelson. The Nelson father and son team manage the Smeltzer Farm row crop acres as part of their family farm operation. Strip-tillage marries the best aspects of conventional tillage with the benefits of no-till. Before planting (fall post-harvest, or spring pre-plant) a strip-tillage implement creates strips of tilled soil. Surface residue is left undisturbed between the tilled strips. Corn or soybeans are planted into the tilled soil strips, which warm and dry faster than the rest of the field. This practice offers better water infiltration, improved soil structure, and potential for reduced fuel, machinery and other crop input costs.
Other field day speakers include Sarah Carlson, research and policy director with Practical Farmers of Iowa, who will discuss fall-seeded cereal grain cover crop management and will highlight the Smeltzer Farm demonstration site of corn planted into fall 2010 aerial-seeded winter rye cover crop. Laura Christianson, Ph.D. candidate in the Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering department at Iowa State University, will discuss wood chip bioreactors and other techniques to limit nitrate transport to water bodies. A denitrifying bioreactor is one of many soil and water quality-enhancing features of the Smeltzer Farm.
Visitors of all ages can learn something about Iowa agriculture at the Smeltzer Farm. Families are encouraged to come to the field day to see the Conservation Station. The Conservation Station’s rainfall simulator shows the effects of rain on several different surface scenarios and subsurface drainage including highly disturbed land, no-till and residue-covered surfaces, buffers and permeable pavement. The learning lab portion of the Conservation Station includes displays and activities highlighting why soil and water quality are important to everyone. Kids can become members of the “conservation pack” by participating in the Conservation Station activities.
The Smeltzer Farm is a unique experience as it contains examples of almost every conservation practice that can be put in place. The Ann Smeltzer Charitable Trust board oversees the management of the farm and works to develop the farm that Miss Smeltzer envisioned — a learning environment for conservation practices and environmental issues.
Farmers and non-farmers can learn from seeing the row crop demonstration plots, stream bank restoration, waterways and buffers that have been installed on the farm. Webster County Conservation Naturalist Karen Hansen will be at the field day to show families some of the farm features, with the help of Sam Adams, the new Natural Resources Conservation Service District Conservationist for Webster County.
The Smeltzer Trust Farm is located on County Road P59 (Nelson Avenue), 2.5 miles south of Otho, on the east side of the road.