The crops team focuses on integrated management for sustainable agriculture with three priorities: crops (production and grain storage), soils (soil fertility and nutrient management, and soil management), and pests (weed, plant disease and insect resistance). Specialists at the Iowa State University campus and around the state help clients understand the importance of food security and environmental stewardship.
Growing up on his family’s Webster County swine and crop farm, Mark Licht got an early introduction to both livestock and crop farming. It was that same exposure that helped him find his voice within agriculture – and decide what he liked and did not like about farming.
For Licht, crop production was by far the most appealing.
“I often joke that I developed my extension voice from the farm, because I learned the ability to yell from one end of the farrowing barn to the other,” said Licht. “I did not enjoy hogs and manure at all, but I was intrigued by crop production and the ways we can improve soil.”
Licht earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees from Iowa State University, and has spent the past 20 years of his career helping crop farmers improve their operations as an agronomist with ISU Extension and Outreach.
His specialty is cropping systems – also known as the study of how crop patterns and farming practices impact soil health and productivity.
“I recognize that how we produce crops affects the environment and vice versa,” said Licht. “To me that’s the intriguing part —how can we do things a little bit better—how do we grow crops in a different way to make sure that we still have the productivity and profitability but ultimately I’m still trying to reduce that environmental impact.”