- Debate over CRP acres: Early farm bill pitches range widely for possible changes to acreage cap
One of the bigger and potentially costlier program shifts being pitched for the next farm bill revolves around what to do about the Conservation Reserve Program. The last two farm bills passed by Congress during the commodity boom lowered the acreage cap in CRP from 37 million acres down to 24 million acres. At least some lawmakers and groups are trying to get CRP acres bumped back up — for a variety of reasons.
- Can cover crops clean up the Corn Belt?
Iowa's got a water quality problem, and cover crops could help. But it will mean convincing 50,000 corn and soy farmers to diversify their fields.
- Is low-disturbance no-till the future of farming?
During a "Future of No-till" presentation at Western Illinois University, New Zealander John Baker discussed how current no-till practices have only achieved about 50 percent of its potential conservation agriculture capability. Baker, who initiated a research and development program at New Zealand's Massey University in 1967, aimed to identify and eliminate issues in no-till by studying soil science and the impact of no-till seeding openers.
- Novel use of satnav saves precious water
Water conservation is a growing concern globally, and particularly for farmers in the U.S., where decades of irrigating huge fields has depleted vital resources of fresh surface water and groundwater. A European Space Agency spin-off that can help to preserve water supplies while guaranteeing crop irrigation is now undergoing final testing.
- Blog: Measuring water quality outcomes — 6 success stories
In 2010, USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service used a project- and partnership-based conservation approach to help improve water quality in agricultural watersheds through the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watershed Initiative (MRBI). I wanted to know how well these voluntary watershed projects were doing, and if they had documented cleaner water using the monitoring systems encouraged by NRCS.
- Putting nutrient loss reduction practices to work
The 2016 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll examined trends in farming practices and strategies since 2013, the year the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy was started. The farm poll survey listed a number of nutrient loss reduction practices, as well as some practices that are not recommended. It also asked farmers if they had changed their use of the practices since 2013. Results indicate farmers are increasing their use of recommended practices and decreasing use of some practices that are not recommended.
- A climate change solution beneath our feet
When we think of climate change solutions, what typically comes to mind is the transportation we use, the lights in our home, the buildings we power and the food we eat. Rarely do we think about the ground beneath our feet. Kate Scow thinks a lot about the ground, or, more precisely, the soil. She's been digging into the science of how healthy soils can not only create productive farmlands, but also store carbon in the ground, where it belongs, rather than in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.
- Blog: Should prairie potholes and other wet areas be farmed?
If you farm in the Des Moines Lobe, you know a thing or two about growing corn and soybeans in prairie potholes. They don't usually yield as much as other parts of your field and they can often cause planting to be delayed in the spring. Perhaps it is time to consider a more economical and environmental land use for those areas.
- Conservation freeze: Popular program sees change
New enrollment in a popular conservation program has been frozen, but producers interested in it shouldn't give up hope, a sustainable agriculture official says. The U.S. Department of Agriculture as of May 3 quit enrolling new acres in the Continuous Conservation Reserve Program because the larger program of which it is a part had reached its acreage cap.
- Diverse rotations and poultry litter improves soybean yield
Continuous systems, defined as continually producing a crop on the same parcel of land for more than three years, is thought to reduce yields. Given that crop rotations and soil amendments (cover crops and poultry litter) may alleviate issues associated with continuous cropping, research into their combined effects is necessary to make recommendations that improve soil quality and yield.