AMES, Iowa — Iowa Learning Farms, along with the Lower Skunk Water Quality and Soil Health Initiative and Henry County Soil and Water Conservation District, will host a cover crops and saturated buffer field day on Wednesday, Nov. 28 from 12-2 p.m. at the Hillsboro Community Center. The event is free, open to the whole family and includes a complimentary meal.
Van Buren and Henry County farmer Clark Whitaker, alongside his brothers and son, raises row crops, cattle and hogs on his family’s Heritage Farm. Together they have implemented a variety of conservation practices to help improve water quality and soil health. Recent water quality practices include a saturated buffer and wetland to help reduce nitrate loss from their property. Whitaker has no-tilled his corn and soybeans for the past 35 years and in 2014 began using cereal rye, oats and radish cover crops to increase soil health, reduce the soil from erosion and protect the farm's productivity for the future.
“My family has always thought of the farm as an asset to be used. As an asset it needs to be cared for and maintained,” said Whitaker. “Part of that care is trying to keep the soil on the farm instead of in road ditches and waterways. We have been working to raise organic matter and are realizing the benefits of organic matter. Part of the reason for looking at cover crops on our farm is to see the benefits and how incorporation into our operation will improve the soil and our operation in the future.”
The agenda will continue with Ann Staudt, Iowa Learning Farms manager and content specialist, discussing edge-of-field practices like saturated buffers, bioreactors and denitrifying wetlands. Liz Juchems, Iowa Learning Farms conservation outreach specialist, will share results from cover crop projects examining species selection, water quality implications and soil health indicators such as earthworms. Miranda Haes, Lower Skunk Water Quality and Soil Health Initiative coordinator, will provide project updates and discuss opportunities to get involved. Following the program, Whitaker will provide a tour of his nearby cover crops, weather permitting.
The field day will be held at the Hillsboro Community Center, 105 E. Commercial Street. The event is free and open to the whole family, but reservations are suggested to ensure adequate space and food. Please RSVP to Liz Juchems at 515-294-5429 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For reasonable accommodations please contact Miranda Haes at 319-385-2824 Ext. 3 or Miranda.Haes@ia.nacdnet.net.