13 minutes | Feb 11, 2019
Rotationally Raised, Episode 012: Small Grains in the Corn Belt: A Sustainable Supply Chain
The first season of Rotationally Raised has come to a close. We hope you learned a lot about production, and that you’ve decided that small grains could work on your farm. That said, in this episode, we shift the focus a bit to include the bigger picture. Members of Practical Farmers of Iowa want to grow small grains again because they’re good for the farm, good for rural communities and good for our food system as a whole. In this final episode of the first season of Rotationally Raised, we explore how diversified crop rotation could play a big role in making the agricultural supply chain – that provides us all with food, feed, fuel and fiber – more sustainable. Nathan Anderson, who direct markets beef from his family’s farm near Aurelia in northwest Iowa, says that the best way for consumers to understand why to support farmers is to visit a farm. “I think there’s a number of farmers that are very open to sharing about their operation,” he says, “I know I really appreciate those opportunities.” Jon Bakehouse of Hastings says that doing things a little differently – even if it’s just on a few acres, starts conversations. “It shows people that you can do something different,” he says, “it gives you the open door to start talking about diversity and why it’s important and why maybe your community should be thinking about it more seriously on a large scale.” Earl Canfield and his family, who farm near Dunkerton, started raising small grains for a number of different reasons. But perhaps the most important is that raising a diversity of crops is good for his family. He says that as agriculture has gotten bigger and moved more toward specialization, there are less opportunities for young people on the farm – both to be able to gain experience and responsibility with different crop and livestock enterprises, and to be able to stay and find work in rural America. In the Canfield family’s case and in every family’s case, that all depends on making an income, “Farmers need to be able to earn a profit on the different crops that they’re growing on their farm,” Earl says. For farmers like Nathan, Jon and Earl, one answer to making a diversified farm work is by seeking out customers directly who support the type of agriculture they practice. But for many farmers, that’s not practical, for one reason or another. They still, however, believe that raising crops in rotation — and in tandem with livestock — is what works for farms, families, the environment and rural communities. As consumers and people who live off the farm in towns and cities get on-board with diversity in Iowa’s agriculture, opportunities exist for creating new markets and building additional resilience into the food and agriculture supply chain. And that’s why, for the last couple years, we’ve been working with various partners throughout the agriculture supply chain to figure out how to reward Corn Belt farmers in the marketplace for growing crops in diverse rotations. If you’re interested in this, or to learn more about how you can get involved with this initiative, contact Sarah Carlson – email@example.com, who leads this project. To learn more about small grains production, please check out our small grains page. Thanks again to all the members of Practical Farmers of Iowa who dedicated their time, thoughts and energy to make this series happen. Also, if you like the music, please check out farmer-musician Matt Woods. The guy is awesome. And he plays lots of shows. He’ll probably be somewhere near you soon… Rotationally Raised wouldn’t have been the same without his driving guitar. Thanks, Matt! You can watch the video version of this episode on our YouTube channel.
18 minutes | Feb 11, 2019
Rotationally Raised, Episode 011: Livestock II: Grazing Summer-seeded Cover Crop Mixes
For farmers that grow small grains, the harvest is just the beginning. After harvesting the crop in July, the possibilities for cover crops to plant on that ground are endless. “The world is your oyster,” says Jon Bakehouse of Hastings. Because you can seed cover crops as early as July 1, there’s plenty of time for those plants to soak up the long, hot days. Cover crops like radishes and turnips – which, in most years, would not provide much benefit planted in late fall between corn and soybeans – have time to develop large tubers and bust up compaction layers. There’s also time for legumes to fix plenty of nitrogen and forages to put on plenty of biomass. This gives livestock farmers the option to rest perennial pastures in order to graze them later in the fall or stockpile for winter, cutting back on hay costs. In this week’s episode, we talk with farmers who plant multi-species cover crop mixes in the summer for their cattle to graze. Grazing Summer-seeded Cover Crops Paul Ackley of Bedford says that he relies on a summer-seeded cover crop mix to cut his hay cost and feed his cows economically through the winter. “This fills the gap in the winter when we would be feeding hay. The cattle really do well on it,” he says, “their health is just really good, they’re happy, they’re finding their own meal. We’ll strip off about enough to last them for three or four days with polywire electric fence, and then move it for them every third or fourth day.” He follows the cover crop mix with corn in his rotation to take advantage of the manure from the cows, so he also includes nitrogen-fixing plants in the mix. Root diversity to improve the soil is a big consideration for Jon Bakehouse when considering species for his cover crop mix. “Get something on there that’s growing aggressively, and at different rooting depths,” Jon says. “with our corn and soybeans, they’re very shallow rooted crops, so if we can get something that has a taproot drilling down, I think that’s a benefit.” He says that all those different types of roots create more channels for water to infiltrate, helping to cut down on the amount that runs off the surface. He says that he also wants to have warm-season and cool-season plants to provide different types of rooting patterns under different weather conditions. Tim Sieren of Keota agrees. “Each plant has its own conditions,” he says, “One plant will take advantage of warm weather, and another will do better in the cool season.” Last year after harvesting his rye crop, he planted a mix of grasses, legumes and brassicas. One of the legumes he planted, a cowpea, didn’t respond well to the wet weather he had on his farm in August. “It’s just kind of an insurance policy,” he says, “if you’d have put all cowpeas in here, you’d have bare ground.” But, because he planted a mix of rye, radishes and rapeseed in addition to cowpeas, he had a good cover. “One of them will take advantage of the conditions,” he says. He says it also helps soil microbes to have different species growing together: “Some microbes like some plants better than others.” Next episode, we’ll wrap up this season of Rotationally Raised, and we’ll hear from farmers about why consumers need to understand the benefits of crop diversity and crop rotations so they can support food and agriculture products that benefit farmers, rural communities, and the soil that these communities and farmers tend and protect. To learn more about small grains production in Iowa, check out Practical Farmers of Iowa’s small grains page. There, you can find research reports, production manuals, articles, blogs, conference presentations and more. You can watch the video version of this podcast on our YouTube channel.
21 minutes | Feb 11, 2019
Rotationally Raised, Episode 010: Livestock I: Feeding Small Grains
Time was when oats were included in the diet of nearly every single farm animal (aside from maybe the dogs and cats) raised in the state of Iowa. Cattle, dairy cows, horses, chickens, pigs and sheep all ate oats (and other small grains) at various stages of their lives. That time has now past, of course, on most farms. But for many farmers, small grains still make up an important component of the livestock feed ration. On this episode, we hear from several members around the state about how they include small grains in their livestock feed. Feeding Small Grains Oats are probably still the most common small grain to be fed to livestock on Iowa farms. PFI members Vic Madsen of Audubon and Ron Rosmann of Harlan both include oats in their hog and cattle rations. For more information on feeding small grains to hogs, check out this Iowa State University extension publication on the topic. And while many farmers do include oats in their feed ration, over the past few years, they have also been growing “succotash.” Succotash is a mix of several small grains, and sometimes field peas are included to increase the protein content. Often this mix is spring wheat, spring barley, oats and field peas. Ron Rosmann of Harlan says that theoretically, if you had the right small grains and enough peas, you wouldn’t have to use any soybean meal. “But what we do is a compromise,” he says – they plant a mix that includes about 90 lbs of an oat-wheat-barley mix and about 35 lbs of field peas an acre, harvest and grind it all together, and mix it into their hog ration. “When we send our rations in to be tested, we’ve got it figured out that generally we have enough field peas in there that we can reduce our soybean meal by 50% in a grow-finish ration,” he says. Regardless of the ration, sending a sample in to a lab to be tested is important, both for determining the nutrient content of the grain and to make sure there aren’t any toxins that could cause health problems for livestock. Many PFI members use Dairyland Laboratories in Wisconsin. “We started growing succotash because we wanted a higher quality feed, instead of just straight oats, a higher protein feed, something that would work better in our hog ration,” says Dan Wilson of Paullina. “We like it because of the multispecies aspect of it,” says Dan’s son Torray, who leads the cattle operations on their farm, “different types of roots, different growth habits, it seems like different years favor one over the other a little bit.” One piece of equipment that farmers growing their own feed probably can’t live without is a grinder-mixer. Ron says that the grinder-mixer has been the way that all farmers have ground and mixed their own rations since the 1960s, when the piece of equipment first hit the market, but they’re becoming less common. “They’re still out there,” he says, but they might not be in the best shape. “You know, you might spend $500 on one, but then you might spend $1500 getting it ready. But that’s still better than buying one new, which might cost $20,000. At least look for something used to get that cost down no matter what it is you’re doing,” he says. For more information on formulating alternative feed rations, see the video of Jeff Mattock’s presentation at the 2017 Practical Farmers of Iowa Annual Conference. Jeff is a feed ingredient specialist at Fertrell Company, which focuses on natural and organic fertilizers, minerals and premixes. In that presentation, he gave detailed explanations of each of the small grains (as well as other alternative feed sources) and how they could replace corn and/or soybeans in livestock diets. Next episode, we’ll dig deeper into the connection between livestock and small grains, see how farmers are planting diverse grazing mixes following small grains harvest to extend their grazing season and save money on hay. To learn more about small grains production in Iowa, check out Practical Farmers of Iowa’s small grains page. There, you can find research reports, production manuals, articles, blogs, conference presentations and more. You can watch the video version of this podcast on our YouTube channel.
16 minutes | Feb 11, 2019
Rotationally Raised, Episode 009: Markets: Challenges and Opportunitites
Marketing can be challenging for any crop, especially when commodity prices are low. But for small grains, the number of elevators that will even have bids out for most small grains is limited. Because Iowa farmers recognize the benefits of adding a third crop to their farm, they are finding both traditional markets and on-farm uses for the crops. On this episode, PFI farmers talk about those challenges and opportunities marketing small grains. Small Grains Markets Just a few decades ago, nearly every farm in Iowa used oats and you’d never struggle selling a crop, whether you were near a food grade market like Quaker Oats or General Mills or you simply sold it to a local feed mill. You might not have always liked the prices, but, at the end of the day, someone would buy it. Today is a different story. For the past couple years, we’ve started compiling a list of businesses – the Small Grains Business Directory – that buy small grains around the region. For farmers close to those markets, selling to one of those buyers as a bulk commodity may be the easiest option. For others, using for cover crop seed, livestock feed or direct marketing may be a more profitable use of the crops. Jon Bakehouse of Hastings says that one way to put small grains to use is to replace your cover crop seed and maybe sell some to your neighbors. “Really, our main purpose for growing and harvesting small grains is to save for our own use for planting as a cover crop for feeding to livestock,” he says. “We have sold some of our small grains right off the combine,” he adds and says that that “inter-neighbor market” can work well if several area farmers are interested in cover crops. And if you plant cover crops on lots of acres, the cost savings of producing your own seed can be real, depending on how much you currently pay for cover crop seed. Earl Canfield of Dunkerton says that you’ll be more successful selling products from a small grains crop – both the grain and the straw – when you put time in to understanding the market. “We’re trying to understand what consumers of oats in Iowa are looking for,” he says, “Where are they buying their oats from today? Why did they buy them where they’re buying them? Is it simply because that’s the only option available?” Earl and his family have recently started to sell oats and straw directly to consumers from their farm. He says it’s important to communicate to end users of small grains products that it’s important for Iowa farmers to be able to have markets for small grains, so they can grow them on their farms and help protect soil and water. For more information on profitable straw production, see Alisha’s recent blog on the topic. Regardless, of the end use of the small grains, it’s a good idea to have that in mind from the start. “You do need to have a place to go with them before you plant them,” suggests Vic Madsen, who farms near Audubon in southwest Iowa. He says marketing oats will be a challenge until the hog and cattle industry begin using the crops in a big way. Vic grows organic small grains, and has sold to various places over the years. Lately, he has sold organic oats to Grain Millers. He also includes small grains in feed rations for his hogs and cattle. Next episode, we’ll talk more in depth about how small grains can fit into a livestock operation, and hear from farmers who include small grains in rations, plant diverse grazing mixes following small grains harvest, and use the straw for feedlot and barn bedding. To learn more about small grains production in Iowa, check out Practical Farmers of Iowa’s small grains page. There, you can find research reports, production manuals, articles, blogs, conference presentations and more. You can watch the video version of this podcast on our YouTube channel.
18 minutes | Feb 11, 2019
Rotationally Raised, Episode 008: Post-Harvest: Handling and Storage
Because the markets for small grains require that farmers produce good yields, but also good grain quality, storage is particularly important. Fortunately, most farmers that raise corn and soybeans usually have the equipment and facilities on their farm to keep small grains in good condition after harvest. In this episode, PFI members share some of their experiences with small grains handling, cleaning and storage. Small Grains Storage One thing that makes oats different from other crops is the “sweat” stage post-harvest. “Oats will naturally go through what’s called a sweat, they get hot,” says Ron Rosmann of Harlan, after the crops are harvested. Ensuring they can somehow breathe during that time period helps ensure that those oats don’t spoil. One way that was accomplished historically was by storing them in wooden bins. Today, if they are being stored in metal bins, proper aeration is critical. “I will absolutely put air on them every time,” says Wade Dooley of Albion, “because I don’t want to have hot spots. I don’t want to have any mistakes. We’re raising them not just as an undifferentiated commodity like corn, I’m raising it for my own usage as seed, so I have to keep the germination up. I don’t want to lose germ on a good crop and then make it into a lousy crop just because I didn’t store it right.” For selling small grains as a commodity – to a wheat market in Kansas City or organic oats to Grain Millers in St. Ansgar for example – the grain likely doesn’t need any more cleaning than what’s done with a combine. But, Darren Fehr of Mallard, who sells to Grain Millers, says that you might be able to pick up a little test weight. “By the time we finish auguring, and running it through grain driers or just handling it in general, we’ll pick up a few more pounds of test weight,” he says, “it’s just separation of chaff from the good grain.” He says using air during the handling process also helps – whether it’s running the fan on the bin when you put the oats in, or using air systems to move the grain. But some markets – such as cover crop seed or specialty feed or food grade markets – may require some additional cleaning. Earl Hafner and his son Jeff run Early Morning Harvest, a farm business that mills various grains into flour near Panora. Getting a spotless grain to start the milling process is important for high quality flour, and he recently upgraded from a smaller two-screen cleaner to a larger, 298D Clipper cleaner. (You can find more information about this model at Commodity Traders International.) The machine is certainly not new – he bought it used and fixed it up a bit. “If you get it set right, it does an excellent job,” he says. He also uses the cleaner on grains that he’ll use for cover crop seed. Darren sells to Grain Millers, Wade uses his small grains for cover crop seed, and the Hafners mill flour, but how else can you economically use a crop of small grains? On the next episode, we’ll talk about small grains markets. To learn more about small grains production in Iowa, check out Practical Farmers of Iowa’s small grains page. There, you can find research reports, production manuals, articles, blogs, conference presentations and more. You can watch the video version of this podcast on our YouTube channel.
18 minutes | Feb 11, 2019
Rotationally Raised, Episode 007: Harvest: When and How
When it comes to small grains, Iowa farmers have many different opinions on the best time and method to harvest the crops. Unlike with corn and soybeans, there’s a choice to be made: should you swath/windrow or directly combine the small grains standing? Depending on the year, weather conditions and the equipment available on-farm, this may be a choice, or only one of the two options may be available. In this episode of Rotationally Raised, PFI members weigh in on this, as well as harvest timing and how to fine-tune your combine to more efficiently harvest small grains. Small Grains Harvest Wade Dooley of Albion says that he started looking at swathing because he wanted to improve not only the quality of the grain, but the quality of the straw. “The straw quality is usually a little higher,” he says, “because you’ve cut it when there was a little bit of life left in it, so it dries down closer to hay.” He says it just holds together better going through the combine, and then makes nice bales that end up making excellent livestock bedding. “I’d like to swath, but in Iowa in July, it rains so much that swathing is really risky,” he says. Because of this, Wade tries to watch the weather and direct cut if it looks like a lot of rain in the forecast around harvest time. Aaron Heley Lehman of Polk City agrees that swathing can be risky. “If everything were perfect, and everything were standing perfectly, I think a lot of us would just assume use the small grain head on our combine and take them directly,” he says. But when there’s weed pressure or the underseeding is very thick or you want to take lots of the straw (and cut the grain closer to the ground), direct cutting can mean taking a large amount of plant material that’s still green into the combine. For that reason, Aaron purchased a swather in early 2016. Earl Canfield of Dunkerton says that he purchased a 21-ft swather with nearby farmer and fellow PFI member Clark Porter in the early summer last year, and said it proved to be a lifesaver. “If there was one piece of a equipment we had in 2016 that we didn’t have in 2015, it would be this swathing machine,” he says. Close to harvest, his farm received several inches of rain and his underseeding took off. He had originally planned to direct cut his oats, but because he likes to cut relatively low to the ground to harvest lots of straw, he knew he’d be taking lots of material through the combine with the added growth on the underseeding. He put the swather to use and was able to harvest a quality oat crop. Once you’ve tested the grain to make sure it’s at the right moisture level for your operation, PFI farmers say that combine settings are crucial with small grains. Darren Fehr sells food grade oats to Grain Millers in St. Ansgar, so high test weight is crucial, but he says it just takes some adjustments to get the hang of it. “I don’t think it should be very difficult for most producers to come to settings that work well,” he says. The goal is to separate the chaff and light oats from the heavier, high test-weight oats that you want to sell. Darren says that figuring out how to do that by managing fan speeds and sieve settings just takes making adjustments, testing, and readjusting. Grain quality is very important with small grains, whether you’re selling them to a food grade market or using them as cover crop seeds, and so keeping the grains in good condition after harvest is important. Next episode, we’ll talk about grain storage and handling. To learn more about small grains production in Iowa, check out Practical Farmers of Iowa’s small grains page. There, you can find research reports, production manuals, articles, blogs, conference presentations and more. You can watch the video version of this podcast on our YouTube channel.
22 minutes | Feb 11, 2019
Rotationally Raised, Episode 006: Crop Protection: Growth Stages, Fertilizers and Fungicides
Pretty much all farmers that grow corn and soybeans can tell you what each of those crops looks like at V6. But do you know the growth stages of small grains? Just as with corn and soybeans, understanding the growth and development of oats, wheat, barley, rye or triticale is just as important when it comes to raising a successful crop. Knowing where a plant is along the growth curve will allow you to better able to manage fertility, disease, and ultimately know when it’s time to harvest. In this week’s episode of Rotationally Raised, Iowa State University graduate researcher David Weisberger walks us through the growth stages of the oat plant, and several PFI farmers talk about how they manage fertility and disease in their crops. Crop Protection As with most crops, small grains suffer from many diseases, from crown rust in oats, to fusarium head blight in wheat, to ergot in rye. Those are a few of the big ones, but there are many others, and it can take a little research to understand the diseases that can affect your crop. University of Minnesota Extension has a good website that compiles many of the resources available in the Midwest about small grains diseases. The first lines of defense against most diseases are crop rotation and variety selection. With some diseases, such as fusarium head blight, corn is an alternate host, so avoiding planting small grains into corn fields is one way to reduce disease risk. In addition, choosing resistant varieties can help reduce yield and test weight loss when disease pathogens are present. For conventional farmers, timely application of the correct fungicide is another way to control or lessen the impact of a disease. “One issue with small grains in Iowa, and in humid climates,” says Nathan Anderson of Aurelia, “is that you can have some disease problems.” Because they needed good seed quality — whether they would be using the seed for feed, cover crop seed, or sold as a food grade product — he says they used fungicides to control late leaf and head diseases. “That’s a scouting method,” he says, “We’re scouting those diseases to see if they’re present, to see if we’re reaching a threshold and see what our environmental indicators are that might increase the prevalence of the disease if it is present already, so that allows us to make a good decision of whether we need to use those products or not.” He says that one good resource that allows growers to monitor the weather conditions conducive to fusarium particularly is the Fusarium Head Blight Prediction Center, a joint effort of several universities across the country. When it comes to fungicide, there are lots of different products, and each one of those products works differently to control diseases. In most cases, however, you’ll need to understand a little about how staging is different in small grains than it is for corn and soybeans. Tim Sieren of Keota says that understanding these growth stages takes a little studying up, but is essential if you are going to be using fungicides. “It’s not different than with corn, you need to understand your V stages so you can know what time to apply the right chemicals,” he says. With disease management, timing is crucial, so whether you’re combatting crown rust in oats or head scab in wheat, the most important thing is to read the label. “That’s why they have the labels – to tell you the proper time to apply it to get the maximum benefit,” Tim says. To learn more about small grains production in Iowa, check out Practical Farmers of Iowa’s small grains page. There, you can find research reports, production manuals, articles, blogs, conference presentations and more. You can watch the video version of this podcast on our YouTube channel.
25 minutes | Feb 11, 2019
Rotationally Raised, Episode 005: Planting II: Seed to Soil
With corn planters, uniformity in depth and spacing both within and between rows is a precise science. With small grains (at least in Iowa), equipment with that precision isn’t really available or affordable (we’re not talking about singulation in oats, for example). Most Iowa farmers are either using conventional or no-till drills, or broadcasting seed and then incorporating it. This week, we zero in on when to plant, how to deep to plant, and why having a firm seedbed is so important with small grains. Seed to Soil In this episode, “Planting II: Seed to Soil,” PFI members from around the state share their perspectives on planting date, seed bed preparation and planting depth. In general, everyone agrees that it’s important to get spring small grains planted as soon as possible. Depending on soil moisture conditions, that could be anywhere from early to mid-March in southern Iowa, to late March and early April in the northern half of the state. “If the frost is out of the ground, and the topsoil is dry, it’s time to plant,” says Dan Wilson of Paullina, “we have put in oats when the snowbanks were still in the road ditches. If the soil conditions are right to plant, we’ll put them in. We just think the earlier the better.” The same is true for winter grains like winter rye, wheat or triticale. In that case though, the limiting factor is getting the summer crop harvested — usually soybeans — so you can get the small grain planted. Ensuring you get the seed at the depth you want is also important. “Whenever you’re planting any crop, you have to get off the tractor and see where the seed is,” says Ron Rosmann of Harlan. “And with small grains like oats and barley, you need to be in the ground about 1-2 inches, that would probably be ideal.” Uniformity is another factor — when seeds are in the soil at about the same depth, they’ll be more likely to emerge at the same time and maintain uniformity throughout the year. Darren Fehr of Mallard says that thinking about field preparation is one way to accomplish that: “Typically we’ll field cultivate once, maybe twice. Generally, it’s just trying to get a nice, firm seedbed,” he says. To learn more about small grains production in Iowa, check out Practical Farmers of Iowa’s small grains page. There, you can find research reports, production manuals, articles, blogs, conference presentations and more. You can watch the video version of this podcast on our YouTube page.
20 minutes | Feb 11, 2019
Rotationally Raised, Episode 004: Planting I: Calibrate to Populate
Once you decide where small grains fit best into your rotation and choose a variety, it’s time to plant. Planting population is one of the most important things for farmers new to small grains to think about. In Iowa, most farmers talk about small grains seeding rates in terms of “pounds per acre” or “bushels per acre.” However, the number of seeds in a given pound of grain can vary significantly in small grains, meaning that one bushel of oats may have quite a few more or less seeds than another. Calibrate to Populate In this episode, “Planting I: Calibrate to Populate,” David Weisberger, a student in Iowa State University’s Graduate Program for Sustainable Agriculture, shares his on-farm research with PFI members focused on oat planting population and explains why it’s important to calibrate your grain drill. He’s interviewed dozens of small grains growers, and says that knowing exactly how many seeds you plant means that you can make management decisions with more accuracy when comparing yields over multiple years. “When it comes to seeing management effects on test weight and yield, you want to be comparing apples to apples, and not apples to oranges,” David says. Then, Wade Dooley, who farms near Albion, demonstrates how to calibrate a drill. He’s been growing oats and rye for cover crop seed for the last few years, and says that calibrating your drill is just a common sense thing that you need to do before planting. “You wouldn’t go out and plant corn or beans without making sure your planter is behaving properly,” he says, “so we should be doing the same with small grains.” To learn more about small grains production in Iowa, check out Practical Farmers of Iowa’s small grains page. There, you can find research reports, production manuals, articles, blogs, conference presentations and more. You can watch the video version of this podcast on our YouTube page.
20 minutes | Feb 11, 2019
Rotationally Raised, Episode 003: What to Plant, Where and Why
Once you decide to grow small grains on your farm, you have a few decisions to make: what species will I grow? Oats, wheat, barley, rye, triticale? And how should they fit into your rotation? Should they follow corn or soybeans? And once I choose a small grain, what variety should I grow? In this week’s episode of Rotationally Raised, “What to Plant: Where and Why” we hear from PFI members around the state on how small grains fit into their crop rotation and how to choose a variety that works for your farm. Variety Selection Resources When it comes to choosing an oat variety, Practical Farmers has been working with Iowa State University for the last couple years to test oat varieties in northern Iowa. You can see those results in this research report and also, check out a blog from Sarah Carlson discussing those results. When it comes to other small grains, you’ll need to go out of the state to find variety trials, and we’ve compiled those results from nearby states as well. Practical Farmers has been working with a group of farmers and small grains buyers throughout Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin to improve the logistics of small grains production and marketing in the Midwest. As part of that, the growers who are participating in the project take part in a monthly phone call. This month, Mac Ehrhardt of Albert Lea Seeds in Minnesota, answered farmers’ questions about selecting a small grain variety. You can check out a blog about this call from our newest staff member, Alisha Bower, who is working on this project with Sarah Carlson. For more information on this pilot project, contact Alisha or Sarah at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com To learn more about small grains production in Iowa, check out Practical Farmers of Iowa’s small grains page. There, you can find research reports, production manuals, articles, blogs, conference presentations and more. You can watch the video version of this episode on our Youtube page.
12 minutes | Feb 11, 2019
Rotationally Raised, Episode 002: Freedom From Inputs
Science can do more than develop new technology to improve crop productivity. It can also teach us lessons that can enable us to save money. By adding additional crops — and in some cases livestock — to their farming operations, many farmers across the state have been able to reduce the amount of purchased inputs they rely on. With decreased reliance on purchased inputs comes independence. For many PFI members, that ability to independently make decisions about their farms and lives is a big reason why they’re farmers. Episode 2 of Rotationally Raised, “Freedom from Inputs,” goes to the roots of Practical Farmers of Iowa – conducting on-farm research to reduce input costs and take better care of our land and communities. Side-by-side comparisons were what got PFI started in the first place, back in the farm crisis of the 1980s. That tradition of strips trials, started by PFI co-founder Dick Thompson, has been carried on by Matt Liebman in his work at Iowa State University’s Marsden Farm over the past 15 years. Back in 1998 when Matt arrived in Iowa, he saw crop and livestock diversity as the key to successful, sustainable farms — including Dick’s farm — and set to work designing a long-term research study to quantify some of the benefits. Nearly two decades later, he and other colleagues have published numerous findings related to profitability, crop production, weed dynamics, soil health, water quality, disease suppression and more. Practical Farmers of Iowa owes a big thanks to Matt Liebman of Iowa State University for this one. Not only for taking the time to be interviewed for this episode, but for the work he’s done over the last couple decades for the members of PFI and for the state of Iowa as a whole. If you’re interested in more of Matt’s research, see his website or check one of his presentations at PFI events: 2016 Small Grains Short Course 2017 Annual Conference presentation 2018 Small Grains Conference Keynote To learn more about small grains production in Iowa, check out Practical Farmers of Iowa’s small grains page. There, you can find research reports, production manuals, articles, blogs, conference presentations and more. You can watch the video version of this podcast on our Youtube channel!
25 minutes | Feb 11, 2019
Rotationally Raised, Episode 001: Small Grains: A Revival
Over the past few years, more and more farmers have been growing small grains again, and even more want to find ways to grow them on their farm. At Practical Farmers of Iowa, we’ve been trying to help with that process. Starting with the first episode “Small Grains: A Revival” – you can learn more about small grains, from the benefits of adding diversity to your crop rotations to growing, harvesting and marketing the crops. Like everything else we do, this series is farmer-led. The podcast is a result of extensive interviews with PFI farmers – young and old, organic and conventional, and from every corner of the state. We also talked with a couple scientists at Iowa State who are avid PFI supporters and focus their careers on diversified rotations and small grains research. At the same time, we know that there are two big barriers to adding a third crop like small grains to corn and soybean rotations: markets and knowledge about growing the crops. Our members have hosted field days, led workshops and conference sessions, and presented at farminars. Our staff has been working with Sustainable Food Lab, an association of food and beverage retailers, to work with companies up and down the feed, food, and beverage supply chains to come up with creative ways to grow small grains markets in the state. If you want to learn more about this initiative to get more small grains in the corn belt or you’re interested in taking part in a pilot project by growing small grains for the first time on your farm, contact Sarah Carlson – firstname.lastname@example.org. I personally want to thank all the PFI families who opened their farms (and offices) up to a video camera during this project. First and foremost, I want to thank John and Beverly and John C., Sarah, and Isabel Gilbert. Especially John. He let me spend a couple days at their farm figuring out how we’d tell this story, and was patient while I moved him around, shoved microphones in his face and shone bright lights in his eyes (oh, and that was right in the middle of corn and soybean harvest). Here are some of the members who offered their time, in no particular order: Dan and all the Wilsons at 7W Farm Paul Mugge Paul Ackley Darren Fehr Mark Tjelmeland Craig Fleishman Wade Dooley Jon Bakehouse Earl Canfield Wendy Johnson Nathan Anderson Tim Sieren Aaron Heley Lehman Jeff Olson Ron Rosmann Vic Madsen Earl Hafner Matt Liebman (Iowa State) David Weisberger (Iowa State) And Matt Woods (check him out, he’s an awesome musician) for the music that he recorded at Alexander Recording Kompany (ARK) in Ames (thanks to Dennis Haislip at ARK for producing the music). And finally, thanks to Freya Yu an intern from the University of Iowa who helped on this project! To learn more about small grains production in Iowa, check out Practical Farmers of Iowa’s small grains page. There, you can find research reports, production manuals, articles, blogs, conference presentations and more. You can watch the video version of this podcast on our YouTube channel.