July 31, 2018

Cover Crops Enhance Both Crop and Livestock Operations

On July 17, AJ and Kellie Blair of Dayton, Iowa hosted a field day to discuss their experience with cover crops. Topics ranged from how the crops can benefit crop rotations, nitrogen levels, and livestock operations. The Practical Farmers of Iowa hosted the event and presented research results from across the state and explained options to other farmers who are interested in incorporating cover crops on their operations.

The Blair’s raise corn, soybeans, cattle, pigs and cover crops. The cover crop operation initially started 10 years ago as a trial to learn more about their effect on a small scale, but the Blair’s have continued to expand their cover crop acres each year. While they first used cover crops for grazing cattle, they have now expanded to using the rye and sorghum for feed and bedding. They also harvest some rye for seed, so they can plant their own as needed.

Some benefits they’ve noticed are improved soil structure, more field days and less weed pressure. They also take water samples and have noticed a decline in the nitrate levels near the fields they have implemented cover crops continually. Having their rye field also gives them a place to apply manure over the summer when it can’t be incorporated into other fields, which means they don’t need to store the manure at any point throughout the year.

While they have seen a very slight decrease in yield of corn and soybeans following a cover crop, the Blair’s say they will continue the operation because there is still a positive economic and environmental impact. By using cover crops they can utilize their acres for a longer period and implement them into their livestock operation in diverse ways, while also seeing less nutrient leaching.

If you are interested in learning more about cover crops, check out these helpful resources:

June 1, 2018

Iowa Select Farms Takes Initiative to Do What's Right

Iowa Select Farms Takes Initiative to Do What’s Right 

By Megyn Walston, CSIF Communications Intern

Iowa Select Farms (ISF) has partnered with the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers (CSIF) and the Green Farmstead Partner program to reduce odors around their buildings and improve neighbor relations. ISF hosted an open house on May 24, 2018, at a new wean-to-finish facility in Williams, Iowa.  Community members, industry representatives, and local farmers attended the event to learn about the new facility, including the windbreaks being installed, and a new electro-static fence that will be used in addition to the trees to help reduce odor.
The trees selected for this site were arborvitae techny with an additional row of dogwood shrubs along the west side of the building. Frazier Nursery of Vinton, Iowa provided the trees and shrubs used on the site and spoke with visitors at the open house about the factors that need to be considered for each site when selecting a species. Arborvitae techny was chosen for this site due to space limitations, longevity, and hardiness. Dogwood shrubs were added along the west side of the building for their hardiness and to add an extra layer of protection for the trees. “If you have a Picasso, you want to put a nice frame around it. So, if you have a nice hog building, you’re going to want to put trees around it to frame the Picasso,” says John Frazier of Frazier Nursery.
Iowa Select Farms has committed to planting trees around a minimum of 90 sites over the next three years. Noel Williams, Iowa Select Farms chief operating officer, spoke at the event. “These things are not required by state law, they’re not regulated by the federal government and as much as I would like them to, as a production guy, help the environment in the barn or help the pigs grow better, they don’t. But they do help us be good neighbors and responsible members of our rural communities and state, and we at Iowa Select are proud to do things that are right and to do things the right way.”
                “Whether it’s a new barn, an existing farm or refurbishing existing growth, we are here to help you do that,” says Brian Waddingham, Executive Director of the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers.  If you are interested in learning how trees and shrubs can benefit your unique livestock production, contact the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers at info@supportfarmers.com or at 1-800-932-2436.

May 15, 2018

Be Aware of Summer Tree Pests

Pests travel quickly between trees, shrubs, grasses and other host crops making it important to identify the pests promptly.  Early treatment and understanding how the pest spreads is essential in preventing these pests from causing further damage.

The Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) is a small, metallic green beetle with a flattened back and purple abdominal segments beneath its wing covers. Trees impacted may experience canopy dieback in the top one-third of the tree which may progress until the entire tree is bare. Other symptoms may include: epicormic shoots or sprouts growing from roots and trunks with leaves larger than normal, bark splitting, D-shaped exit holes, or increased woodpecker activity. EAB spreads by transportation of firewood or other wood materials (Michigan State University Dept. of Entomology). Arbor Jet recommends treating EAB before dieback symptoms exceed 40%. Insecticides are available but it is suggested to be proactive and consider spraying trees when EAB is found in the area.            

The Zimmerman Pine Moth is a midsized moth with gray and red-brown wings marked with zig-zag lines. Larvae are generally dirty white to light gray, up to one inch long and burrow into pine trees and other conifers to feed on the sap produced by the tree. Caterpillars are deep in the trunk by late June through July and the wounds may look gummy. Other common symptoms are wilting and browning of new foliage or branch ends wilting and turning downward (Tree Geek). Blue Ribbon Lawn and Landscaping suggests applying insecticide the last week of April and the first week of August. Saturate the trunk as much as possible while also spraying the foliage. Timing of control is particularly important for the life cycle of this moth.

Japanese Beetles eat on fruits, flowers, and leaves to the point of skeletonizing.  Larvae are white c-shaped grubs that feed on plant roots. Adults emerge mid-June through July and are 3/8 inches long and ¼ inch wide. The head and thorax are shiny metallic green with coppery red wing covers. The most distinguishing feature is the row of 5 tufts of white hairs on each side of the abdomen. Japanese beetles can be tough to control because of their wide range of hosts and extended time-frame of emergence. Iowa State University Extension recommends spot spraying infested foliage and multiple insecticide applications may be necessary to maintain control. Spraying the adult stage is not an effective strategy for preventing white grubs.

No pest is the same, therefore there is no “one size fits all” for pest control. Do your research or consult a specialist to determine the best control practices. For more information about common pests and control, check out these helpful sites:

By Megyn Walston: CSIF Intern