Like many Iowans spending more time at home, I started growing houseplants as a pandemic hobby this past year to bring a little bit of nature inside my living and work spaces.

Sadly, I learned that plants can get sick. I lost two houseplants to root rot this winter, and I felt awful about my failure as a plant parent.

Of course, I’m just growing houseplants as a fun pastime, not as a source of livelihood like Iowa farm families.

Iowa farmers feel an immense sense of responsibility as they care for the health of their crops throughout the year.

And when something goes wrong – like last summer’s historic derecho wind storm that flattened one-third of Iowa’s corn crop – not only does it hurt their income, but it also makes farmers feel downright sick about losing the crops that we all depend on.

Daren Mueller, a plant pathologist at Iowa State University, sums it up so well by explaining that farmers must make “1,000 decisions” every day – about what types of seed to plant, whether to spray crops for pests and what are the best treatments to keep crops healthy.

It gives me a new perspective when I see farm equipment in the fields – about all the science and planning that farmers use to benefit crop health.

In this issue of the Iowa Dish, we talk with Mueller about how Iowa farmers use science-based Integrated Pest Management strategies to protect their crop health and minimize the impact on the environment.

We also welcome the return of Iowa’s popular county and state fair this summer. Learn more about how kids and teens care for their show animals at the fair and year-round.

And we’re all ready for the return of summer grilling and backyard gatherings with friends and family. Learn how to grill safely to prevent food-borne illness (and to help give our overworked health care providers a break this summer).

I encourage you to also check out the “Real Farmers. Real Food. Real Meat.” website to learn more about the nutritional benefits of real meat this grilling season and how Iowa farmers work everyday to care for their farm animals.

Please get out and enjoy the summer! And don’t overwater your houseplants!

Teresa Bjork
Editor, The Iowa Dish

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