Ask any farmer and they will explain the importance of soil. While seasonal weather can be the difference from a good harvest and a worrisome one, the soil moderates the long-term productivity of that harvest. The inherent properties of soil types are vital to know when it comes to management practices on any agricultural landscape.
“We rely on soil for so many different things, the list can be overwhelming at times,” said Bradley Miller, assistant professor of agronomy at Iowa State University. “You think about why the state of Iowa has the agricultural economy that it does, and that is largely because of the soil it has.”
“I am pleased to announce the latest round of projects represent more than $2.03 million in funding for water quality research,” said Matt Helmers, Iowa Nutrient Research Center director and professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering at Iowa State. “The new grants bring the total number of projects funded fully or partially by the center to 92, a total of more than $10.7 million invested in nutrient-related water quality research since 2013.”
The hills were blackened. What was once a house, now a concrete slab.
Wildfires brought destruction to the lush hillside vineyards, rangelands and forests of Napa County, California, in the fall of 2017. Six months later, Jacob Wright, a junior in agronomy, found himself in the midst of a Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) team dedicated to the recovery of the landscape.
“Often people just didn’t know where to start,” says Wright. “We would visit the property and point them in the right direction. We worked together with multiple agencies at both the state and federal level.”
Jacob Wright’s (AGRONOMY) adventure has taken him across the country. From his home in Virginia to Iowa State, Jacob wanted to learn all he possibly could. He was determined to get experience with a variety of crops and focus on the environment. His adventure continued carrying him west, to California for an INTERNSHIP with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Napa.
Organic farmers are in a tough spot when it comes to controlling weeds. Since conventional herbicides aren’t an option, many choose to use tillage — mechanically turning over the soil to upend weeds. However, tillage can take a toll on soil health and cause run-off. Increasingly, organic farmers are seeking better ways to control weeds while preserving soil health.
Our incoming freshman spent the weekend before classes start on a tour of agriculture industry and farms in northeast Iowa. They toured Beck's Hybrids in Marshalltown, Pioneer Hi-Bred in Reinbeck and Landus Co-op in Dike. A stop at UNI allowed them to cool down (the air conditioning broke on the bus) and learn about urban soil conservation on the UNI campus. Near Nashua they learned about soil health from the Iowa Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Conservation Learning Group, a think tank dedicated to addressing conservation and environmental challenges, was established as a part of Iowa State University Extension and Outreach in July 2018. The group is a collaboration of researchers, educators and advocates having the goal to better understand issues and come up with creative, sustainable solutions that are repeatable at scale. Our Drs. Mark Licht and Emily Heaton are involved in the project.
Representatives from bioengineering, social science, agronomy, crop science, soil science, wildlife management, water resource management and conservation are on the CLG team. Specialists from other areas of study will be welcomed to contribute to the group’s goals.