Field crops a major feature at Practical Farmers of Iowa annual conference in January

AMES, Iowa — How can cover crops, strip-tillage, tile drainage systems, small grains and woodchip bioreactors benefit the soil and enhance production in corn and soybean systems?

Come find out at Practical Farmers of Iowa’s 2013 annual conference, “Soil and Soul,” taking place Jan. 10-12 at the Iowa State Center Scheman Building, on the Iowa State University campus in Ames. The conference is open to the public, and registrations are being accepted now. Those who pre-register by Jan. 2 will save $10 per day. Register online at http://practicalfarmers.org/events/annual-conference.html or by contacting Patrick Burke at patrick@practicalfarmers.org or (515) 232-5661. Special rates are available for students and PFI members.

Several sessions at this year’s event – which celebrates the vital role soil plays in sustaining life – focus on field crops and management strategies for both conventional and organic systems that can save time, boost profits and build soil health while protecting water quality.

The “Cover Crops 101” session, offered in partnership with Iowa Learning Farms (ILF), will benefit farmers thinking about planting cover crops for the first time and veteran cover crop growers. Rob Stout, who farms near Washington, Iowa, will teach practical ways to add cover crops to corn and soybean systems as well as integrate them into no-till systems. Plant physiologist Tom Kaspar, with the National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment, will share the latest research on how adding a small grain cover crop can improve soil quality while reducing soil erosion and nitrate leaching.

“I like what cover crops do for the soil,” says Stout, who has been farming for 35 years and planted tillage radish, oat and clover cover crops this fall. “When you get good growth from the cover crop roots it makes the soil looser. There’s also less erosion and cover crops increase organic matter. Soil is the real deal when it comes to raising crops, so anything we can do to improve soil is good – and cover crops make sense from a soil standpoint.”

Other field crop sessions at the conference, several offered in partnership with ILF, will include:

“A Whole-Farm Approach to Conservation for Corn and Soybeans” – Attendees will get to hear a panel of five experts speak on different technologies and management strategies for minimizing nitrogen loss and nutrient runoff.

Speakers include: Matt Helmers, agricultural and biosystems engineer with ISU Extension and Outreach; Dan Barker, assistant scientist in the Agronomy Department at ISU; Randy Hoyt, co-owner of Controlled Drainage Systems in Jefferson; Dan Jaynes, soil scientist with the National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment; and Keegan Kult, watershed management specialist with Iowa Soybean Association.

“Making Organic Small Grains Profitable” – Klaas Martens – who farms 1,400 acres of organic corn, soybeans, small grains, field peas, winter peas, dark red kidney beans and edamame soybeans in upstate New York – will focus on how to make small grains more profitable.

• A breakfast meeting on Saturday, Jan. 12, on “Value-Added Row Crops,” taught by Klaas Martens.

“Willow Lake Farm: A Case Study in Conservation” – Farmer Tony Thompson, who owns or rents nearly 3,500 acres of row crops and almost 1,000 acres of remnant prairie in southern Minnesota, will discuss his experiences with conservation tillage, drainage water management and bioreactors, among other practices.

“Organics: Latest Research, Market Update” – Kathleen Delate, professor in the departments of agronomy and horticulture at ISU, and Tim Daley, a production economist with experience in the soybean industry, will offer an overview of organic row crops as well as in-depth discussion of organic research results and the economics, production potential and soil benefits of organic crop production.

“Successful Strip-Till Management and Beyond” – Dave Nelson, part of a six-generation family farm in north-central Iowa, will discuss how strip-tillage can affect net income, and the conservation benefits of strip-till over conventional tillage.

“Precision Farming and Organic Crops” – Farmer Jacob Bolson, of Knutson Family Farms in Hubbard, will speak on the benefits and practicality of precision agriculture in organic production.

The conference will also feature keynote speaker Elaine Ingham, chief scientist at the Rodale Institute and a world-renowned microbiologist; 18 other in-depth workshops covering topics in horticulture, livestock, local foods and beginning farmers; nine additional Saturday morning breakfast sessions; up to six in-depth “U-Pick” sessions organized around topics suggested by guests during conference registration; and three short courses on composting, farm finances and tractor handling and operation, taking place on Thursday, Jan. 10 and the morning of Jan. 11.

To access the full conference program, registration details or to register online, visit http://practicalfarmers.org/events/annual-conference.html.

Practical Farmers of Iowa’s 2013 annual conference is supported by several major sponsors, including AgVentures Alliance; Albert Lea Seed; Bio-Till; Calcium Products, Inc.; Iowa Farm Bureau Federation; Iroquois Valley Farms; Klinkenborg Aerial Spraying, Inc.; the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University; and Maschio Gaspardo.

Founded in 1985, Practical Farmers of Iowa is an open, supportive and diverse organization of farmers and friends of farmers, advancing profitable, ecologically sound and community-enhancing approaches to agriculture through farmer-to-farmer exchange, farmer-led investigation and information sharing. Farmers in our network produce corn, soybeans, beef cattle, hay, fruits and vegetables, and more. For additional information, call (515) 232-5661 or visit www.practicalfarmers.org.
 

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