Farmers take “stalk” in conservation (and more puns for Soil and Water Conservation Week)
Listen, cheesy jokes shouldn’t be reserved just for dads. I love a good pun, and as a farm mom and someone employed in agriculture, you could say the cornier—ha!—the better.
For all my fellow Iowans who love word play, here are a few lines in honor of Soil and Water Conservation Week:
Bioreactors: A wood chip off the ol’ block.
No, it’s not a nuclear device. A water quality bioreactor is a pit of underground woodchips placed at the edge of a farm field. Drainage tiles are directed to the pit so any nutrients being carried by water flowing through the tiles can be filtered before reaching local streams. Between 2011 and 2019, more than 100 bioreactors have been installed on Iowa farms with more in development.
Rotational grazing: The grass is greener on the other side.
In a rotational grazing system, cattle are moved on a regular basis to different sections of land called paddocks. These rotations prevent overgrazing and allow paddocks to rest and replenish before being grazed again. This practice keeps living roots in the ground, trapping carbon in the soil instead of releasing it into the atmosphere.
No-till fields: Just like hotel guests, they prefer to be undisturbed.
Iowa leads the nation in conservation tillage. After farmers are done harvesting their corn or soybean crop, they leave cornstalks and bean stubble on the ground. Essentially, they let the field hang up a “Do Not Disturb” sign. Because of practices like this that help reduce erosion, Iowa farmers have nearly met phosphorus reduction goals outlined by Iowa’s water quality strategy.
Grassed buffer strips: More effective at filtering than great grandad.
We all have that one person in our lives who can’t help but make an off-hand comment during a family gathering. They simply have no filter. However, grassed buffers are excellent at filtering out the unwanted—such as nutrients. Placed at the edge of fields and near streams, these thick strips of perennial plants can reduce nutrients from reaching waterways by 91%. (Oh, and Iowa ranks #1 in this practice, too!)
Cover crops: From cereal rye to oats—it’s radish.
In 2020, Iowa farmers planted more than 2 million acres of cover crops—some of which include radishes. Cover crops hold soil and nutrients in place after corn and soybeans have been harvested. In the spring, some farmers plant their corn or soybeans directly into growing cover crops. This reduces reliance on herbicides because cover crops act as natural weed suppressors.
With all these practices gaining popularity, you could say conservation is “rooted” in family farm legacies.
OK, maybe that one was a little easy… You could even say it was too “on the rows.”
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