Research and Media Coordinator
Nick joined PFI in December of 2014. He writes about PFI members and issues important to them in the ag media, primarily focusing on diversified crop rotations, cover crops and integrated crop/livestock systems; and assists with all aspects of the Cooperators’ Program. He also produces PFI’s videos and manages the YouTube channel.
He grew up in rural southeast Iowa, outside of Wapello. He has a BA degree from the University of Iowa in 2008, where he majored in Journalism and English, and an MS degree from Iowa State University in 2011, where he majored in Sustainable Agriculture. His research interests focused on soil erosion, water quality, and the use of conservation practices.
From 2012-2013, Nick worked for a non-profit organization in rural Ecuador, where he worked with farmers, interns, and volunteers on rural community development projects. Before joining PFI, Nick worked as the kitchen manager at Cafe Beaudelaire in Ames.
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.
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.
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 week’s episode, we hear from several members around the state about how they include small grains in their livestock feed.
We recorded a handful of presentations at last month’s annual conference, and now they’re available on our YouTube channel. We’ll have a handful more posted in the coming weeks. You can find the PDFs of these presentations on our annual conference multimedia page.
Keynote – “Pass It On” – PFI members Susan Jutz of Iowa City, Dan Wilson of Paullina and Vic Madsen of Audubon give advice to younger farmers, and share stories from their years of farming experience.
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 week’s episode, PFI farmers talk about those challenges and opportunities marketing small grains.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.