Soils: Cultivating a Deeper Understanding
Whatever the crop or livestock raised, farmers across the spectrum depend on soil. This short course begins with the basics and then digs deeper into the science. We’ll explore the living communities below our feet and what these “worlds below” mean for farmers. You’ll receive a workbook to follow the presentations, to take notes and to cultivate plans for improving the soil on your own farm. Whether you grow corn, wheat, vegetables or cows, there will be plenty to take home from this course.
- The Soils of Iowa
Learn about the geography of Iowa’s soils and the soil properties that control root growth, crop yield and field health.
- How Microbes Influence Plant Growth and Productivity
This session will cover diverse ways in which microbes help plants, including helping them acquire nutrients and defend against pathogens, pests and environmental stresses. The session will also provide perspectives on strategies for capturing microbial benefits, including the growing field of microbial products for agriculture and how knowledge of agricultural microbiomes may lead to management approaches and plant genotypes that optimize these microbial benefits.
- Alternative Strategies for Building Soil Health and Enhancing Ecosystems
This presentation will explore the environmental impacts of alternative and conventional grain, vegetable and bioenergy cropping systems, including effects on soil organic matter, soil biological activity, nutrient retention, carbon sequestration, water quality and soil health. Topics will span a wide range of agricultural management options, such as reduced tillage, extended rotations, cover crops, compost and manure application, organic management and perennial plantings.
Soil-Test Biological Activity A Tool for Soil Health Assessment
In this session, you’ll learn about the scientific basis for using soil-test biological activity as part of soil health assessment – a tool that attempts to quantify some of the physical, chemical and biological characteristics of soil. Indicator values should reflect the role played by agricultural management practices and strategies. A standard set of indicators can create a robust soil health assessment, especially when including a simple approach to soil biological assessment. Alan will discuss biological soil quality testing methods, as well as some of the current research on soil ecology and management.
Iowa Forage and Grassland Council Conference (IFGC)
9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
(Held in conjunction with the PFI Conference)
ISU Alumni Center
Cattle, sheep and goat graziers will have the opportunity to learn about grazing and forage at the Iowa Forage and Grassland Council’s (IFGC) annual conference, just prior to the PFI conference. IFGC is again partnering with Practical Farmers of Iowa to bring you information from top-tier industry professionals.
- Kathy Voth and Rachel Gilker from “On Pasture” will headline the event. They will discuss the facts and myths of grazing research, and the long-term benefits of a well-managed grazing system.
- Doug Peterson, regional soil health specialist for Iowa and Missouri with Natural Resources Conservation Service, will present on grazing and soil health.
- Dr. John Grabber, research agronomist from USDA-ARS in Wisconsin, will speak on interseeding alfalfa into corn.
Additional sessions will highlight the latest research on soil health and management tips following a drought. Producers will also share their experiences and answer questions from attendees. For additional information and to register, visit www.iowaforage.org or call (800) 383-1682.