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Weathering economic booms, busts

By Staff | Jan 8, 2012

AMES – Practical Farmers of Iowa is cooking up an agriculture with a strong focus on field crops at its 2012 Annual Conference, “Made from Scratch,” to be held Friday and saturday, at the Iowa State University Center, Scheman Building in Ames.

The conference aim is to provide farmers with the tools to earn more while using less.

The event begins with a “Cover Crops: 101 and Advanced” session from 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Friday. Farmers will spend the afternoon learning from agronomists and other farmers about new cover crop alternatives including legumes, cover crop radish and ryegrass, grazing cover crops, drilling soybeans into living cover crops and the advantages of different types of cover crops.

The seminar will explore adding a cover crop to a corn-and-soybean rotation and more.

Farmers Nathan Anderson, of Cherokee, and Paul Ackley, of Bedford, will discuss how adding a third crop allows for additional cover cropping options that can reduce costs.

Ackley, who grows wheat on his farm, said that its addition should help smooth out economic booms and busts because it provides another diverse source of income for his operation.

This year he followed his wheat crop with a cover crop cocktail of forage sorghum, pearl millet, winter peas and sunflowers.

“I think we’re going to be able to cut out one herbicide application when we come back behind that cover crop with corn,” he said.

“There were very few weeds out there, some volunteer wheat, a few stray peas and that was about it.”

On Saturday, Dr. Matt Liebman, ISU agronomy professor, and Dr. Craig Chase, ISU Extension economist, will present data from an ongoing study that documents the benefits of adding a third crop to a corn-soybean rotation in a field crop session titled, “Off-Farm Inputs: Using Less to Earn More.” Their findings show the key to profitability is lengthening a crop rotation, which significantly reduces the need for herbicides and nitrogen fertilizers without sacrificing yield performance.

A third session, “Balancing Steel and Herbicides to Reduce Weed Resistance,” will examine glyphosate resistant weeds and what can be done to combat the problem.

Farmer Craig Fleishman, of minburn, and Dr. Mike Owen, an Extension weed specialist, will discuss how finding the right combination of ridge-tillage, cultivation and herbicides could be the key to reducing future risks of weed resistance.

For the first time this year, Practical Farmers of Iowa will be offering an in-depth “Soils 101” course at the ISU Agronomy Hall before the official start of the conference.

“Soils 101” runs from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m., on Thursday, and will continue from 8 a.m. to 11:309 a.m. on Friday.

The conference also features keynote speaker Fedele Bauccio, who co-founded Bon Appetit Management Co. in 1987. Another 20 in-depth workshops will cover topics ranging from farm strategies for saving energy and money to preserving farms for future generations.

Register online at practicalfarmers.org/events/annual-conference.html, or by contacting Patrick Burke at (515) 232-5661.

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