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Agroecologist to show how to harness insects

By Staff | Dec 27, 2016

AMES – When farmer and agroecologist Jonathan Lundgren sees insects in his field, he sees the potential for a thriving insect community that can actually save farmers money by helping to keep weeds at bay and control pests that prey on crops – services that can decrease or eliminate the need for costly inputs.

“Farmers, and much of society, have a pest-centric view of insects and biodiversity in general,” Lundgren said, who serves as chief executive officer of Blue Dasher Farm. “But that’s very short-sighted, because for every pest insect, there are 1,700 species that are actually helping us.”

Lundgren argues that figuring out how to manage those insect communities to reap the benefits is the future of entomology, because “when we have that biodiversity, we can use it to save money on farms.”

In corn, for instance, he said researchers are finding that as insect diversity increases, populations of damaging pest insects – like corn rootworm and corn borer – decrease.

“So farmers who are fostering biodiversity no longer have to pay for Bt corn or neonicotinoid treatments. This is a message that doesn’t get out to farmers very often.”

Farmers can learn from Lundgren about how to restore and benefit from this insect diversity at Practical Farmers of Iowa’s 2017 annual conference, “Pass It On,” Jan. 20-21, 2017 in the Scheman Building, on the Iowa State University campus, in Ames.

  • In “Insects and Soil Health” attendees will learn about the services insects provide on farms, and how to harness those services to reduce costs and improve long-term sustainability.
  • In “Pollinator Conservation and Risk Assessment,” Lundgren will discuss the link between pollinators and farm profitability, how aspects of our food production systems are adversely affecting pollinators and how farmers can help conserve pollinators by healing their farm’s soils.
  • In “Q&A With Jonathan Lundgren,” bring your unanswered questions and continue the conversation on soil health, pollinators and conservation.

Register online at practicalfarmers.org, or contact Erica Andorf by calling (515) 232-5661.

Those who pre-register by Jan. 12 will save $10 per day. Special rates are also available for students and PFI members.

This year’s conference celebrates the impact of farmer-to-farmer learning on farmers’ confidence to explore new or different farming practices, and their ability improve farm profitability and land stewardship.

Row crop farmers of all types will find sessions relevant to them. Whether they farm conventionally or organically, ridge-till or roller-crimp, raise small grains or cover crops, the 2017 PFI annual conference offers sessions intended to help beginning and experienced farmers with a range of production, management and land stewardship issues.

Additional field crops sessions at the conference include:

  • A decade of cover crops research.
  • Managing weeds more successfully.
  • Growing profitable small grains in Iowa.
  • Growing high-yield organic corn.
  • Cover crops and conservation on rented ground.
  • Business nuts and bolts for transition to organic grain production (in partnership with Iowa Organic Association).
  • Organic weed control (in partnership with Iowa Organic Association).
  • Cover crops 201.
  • Giant ragweed roundtable.
  • Roller-crimping cover crops.
  • Water quality monitoring.
  • Ridge-till roundtable.
  • Grazing cover crops

Soil Health Short Course: Those who want to learn ways to manage production costs while also stewarding their farm’s soil can sign up for a pre-conference short course – “Conserving $$ and Soil” from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. Jan. 19, and from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Jan. 20, at the Scheman Building.

This in-depth course will cover topics such as how to identify field zones where profitability is low, the benefits of adding wetlands and buffers, the impact of increasing cropping system diversity, how cover crops can help reduce weed pressure and more.

The course will be taught by a suite of experts, including farmers, researchers and others.

Keynote address: The conference features a keynote address on Jan. 20, by three renowned Iowa farmers – Susan Jutz, of Solon; Vic Madsen, of Audubon; and Dan Wilson, of Paullina. These long-time PFI members are past presidents of PFI’s board of directors and recipients of PFI’s Sustainable Agriculture Achievement Award.

During the keynote, the three speakers, who represent a diverse range of farm enterprises, will share words of wisdom from their decades of farming experience, including three insights they feel are most important to pass on.

PFI’s 2017 annual conference is supported by several major sponsors, including Albert Lea Seed, Applegate Organic & Natural Meats, Grain Millers, ISU Department of Agronomy and Graduate Program in Sustainable Agriculture, Rimol Greenhouse Systems, and USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service.

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