Iowa Farmers Share Best Practices for Improving Water Quality

AMES, Iowa -- Farmers coming to the Iowa State University exhibit at the Farm Progress Show Aug. 26-28 will get a bird’s-eye view of select Iowa farms and a chance to visit with farmers who practice ways to improve water quality, including Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey.

Visitors to the Iowa State tent can create a scenario similar to their own farm and select from a menu of management practices courses of action they might consider. Then, they will learn of the resulting costs and benefits of those decisions. Farmers who have implemented water quality improvement practices will host the area and share their experiences with visitors.

Secretary Northey is scheduled to participate on Wednesday afternoon and talk with visitors about his role in creating the water quality initiative and about management practices he has in place on his farm. Last fall Northey used cover crops on his farm for the first time, aerially applying 120 acres, half into corn and half into soybeans. He has long focused on conservation on his farm, using ridge till and grid soil sampling.

Jamie Benning, water quality program manager for ISU Extension and Outreach, says farmers will be able to talk to each other about practices that are working or not working on their farms and ask questions specific to their land and their watershed while at the show.

“We are encouraging farmers to talk to other farmers, virtually visit demonstration sites to see practices in place, and bring questions for our farmers, researchers and educators – all to better understand how decisions affect not only yields but their drinking water, local economy and the future of agriculture in Iowa,” said Benning.

Big screen monitors in the Iowa State tent will take visitors on virtual tours of a variety of Iowa farmlands and management practices while they learn from the host farmers. In addition to Secretary Northey, farmers attending the show include those profiled below.

Rob Stout, of Washington, has been farming for 35 years alongside his father. The farm has been in the family since 1926 and he farms 1,100 acres in addition to managing a hog operation of 9,000 head. Stout started no-tilling in 1983 after previously seeing a heavy rain take away a great deal of soil in his neighborhood. He has been an active participant in the Iowa Learning Farms/Practical Farmers cover crop project and has been successful with managing cover crops. He started by planting 10 acres in his first year, moved to 90 acres in his second year and currently is managing 600 acres of cover crops.

Jim Cuddeback, Washington, also has farmland in the West Fork of the Crooked Creek Watershed project. Cuddeback uses the latest technology and precision-ag equipment on the 900 acres he farms and last year added cover crops to the suite of practices he uses to conserve soil, improve water quality and reduce nutrient losses. “I still have things to learn about cover crops, but I feel it really made a difference controlling spring erosion this year and will continue to plant cereal rye for that purpose,” he said. Cuddeback no-tills nearly all his crop ground and also incorporates terraces and filter strips along streams as conservation measures.

Nathan Anderson, from Aurelia, farms with his wife, Sarah, and family. He graduated from Iowa State in 2010 with a degree in agronomy, is a Cherokee County Soil and Water District commissioner and is involved in Practical Farmers of Iowa. No-till planting, nutrient management and cover crops are part of the family’s corn-soybean acreage program near Cherokee. They also practice rotational grazing in their pasture, increasing biodiversity, improving soil health and improving the economics of their cattle enterprise.

Visit with Secretary Northey, Stout, Cuddeback and Anderson at the Iowa State tent during the Farm Progress Show.