Stefan Gailans

Research and Field Crops Director

Stefan Gailans joined Practical Farmers of Iowa in August 2013. An agronomist by training, Stefan’s primary responsibility is to manage the Cooperators’ Program, Practical Farmers of Iowa’s vehicle for conducting on-farm research on the issues and concerns deemed most important by our members. He also coordinates field days, conference sessions and work shops for PFI’s field crops program.

Stefan grew up in southeast Wisconsin and gained an appreciation for the environment after spending many hours hunting and fishing with his family. This appreciation for the environment birthed a curiosity in the intersection of the natural landscape and the ever-present agricultural landscape. Stefan pursued this curiosity, receiving his BS degree in Crop Sciences from the University of Illinois in 2005 and an MS in Sustainable Agriculture and Crop Production & Physiology from Iowa State University in 2010. In 2013, he completed his course work for a PhD in the Agronomy Department at ISU. His primary research interests were cover crops, third crops and alternative crop rotations.

Stefan enjoys calling Ames (and Iowa!) his home and looks forward to working with farmers across the state and addressing their research concerns. When he’s not thinking about crops, Stefan enjoys listening to music, seeing local bands with friends, listening to the radio, reading science fiction novels that envision interesting (and intriguing) futures, spending time outdoors, and cooking & eating quality local food.

 

Blog posts

In 2014, Iowa Learning Farms and Practical Farmers began a joint research effort to investigate the use of a highboy seeder to seed cover crops into standing corn and soybeans. The objective was to determine the effects of planting technique on the successful establishment of sole species and mixed species cover crops. Cover crop planting technique considered two factors: 1) seeding date (into standing crops vs. post-harvest) and 2) method (Hagie Highboy vs. grain drill).

The results are highlighted in a new report: Seeding Technique and Date Effect on Cover Crop Establishment. More details on the project are provided below.

Hagie Highboy

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Improving water quality of the state’s surface waters begins with the source. At our annual conference last month, Adam Kiel, of the Iowa Soybean Association, and Kellie Blair, who farms with her husband A.J. near Dayton, presented about efforts to monitor tile water quality on farms across the state.

Kiel_CC vs. no-CC water quality

Average tile water nitrate-N concentrations from sites with and without cover crops that were monitored in 2016. 2,172 water samples were collected from 272 locations as part of Iowa Soybean Association’s effort in 2016.

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This year marks the 30th anniversary of Practical Farmers of Iowa’s Cooperators’ Program—our vehicle for conducting on-farm research trials. As such, throughout this year we’ll periodically be taking a look back at work done by farmer-cooperators over the past 30 years in a series of blog posts entitled “Better Know an On-Farm Research Project.” In this first edition of the series, we’re profiling one of the earliest on-farm research projects in the history of the Cooperators’ Program: Nitrogen Rate Comparisons in Corn.

Vic Madsen (speaking) presents about on-farm research at a field day in the early 1990s.

Vic Madsen (speaking) presents about on-farm research at a field day in the early 1990s.

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Using a roller-crimper to terminate cover crops is a topic that has garnered A LOT of attention in recent years. At our 2016 annual conference, three farmers shared their experiences with using modified equipment to roll cover crops. This year, Levi Lyle (of Keota) and Billy Sammons (of Churdan) explained how they’ve used actual roller-crimpers (after the I&J design) in Iowa!

Billy Sammons and Levi Lyle presented before 76 in attendance.

Billy Sammons and Levi Lyle presented before 76 in attendance.

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Ahead of our annual conference last month, we held a short course titled “Conserving $$ and Soil.” Often the conservation of farm production input costs and soil might be considered at odds with one another. Soil conservation efforts are thought to cost money to implement and/or they might involve producing less which would in turn lose money on the whole. As the 30-odd farmers in attendance on Jan. 19-20 learned, this is not necessarily so! If you were there, or couldn’t make it, the presenters in the short course generously allowed us to share their presentation slides (below). Continue reading

Winter Cereal Rye Cover Crop Effect on Cash Crop Yield: Year 8 is now available! This is a long-term project being conducted by Iowa Learning Farms and Practical Farmers of Iowa. Between 2009 and 2016, 12 farmer-cooperators have contributed to 59 site-years of on-farm research to investigate what effect a cereal rye cover crop might have to yields of corn and soybeans.

Over the course of this project, farmers reported that in 55 of 59 site-years, properly managed cover crops had no negative effect on corn and soybean yields. Of those 55 site-years, soybean yields were improved by cover crops in 7 instances and corn yields were improved in 2 instances (both occurring in 2016).

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Word cloud depicting the range of topics PFI farmer-cooperators researched in 2016.

Word cloud depicting the range of topics PFI farmer-cooperators researched in 2016.

In 2016, 76 farmer-researchers conducted 109 trials on farms across the state spanning the field crops, livestock, and horticulture program areas. On Dec. 8-9, 2016, 70 farmers gathered in Ames at the Cooperators’ Meeting to discuss completed on-farm research projects and design new experiments. The Cooperators’ Program is the epitome of what PFI is all about: Farmer-led investigation and information sharing. Continue reading

Last week, we released a new research report, “Cereal Rye Cover Crop Termination Date Ahead of Soybeans, 2016 Update.” The cooperators involved, Jeremy Gustafson and Jack Boyer, saw no ill effects of planting soybeans within 5 days of terminating a cereal rye cover crop. They were both able to reap some cost savings in weed control (Jeremy in 2016, Jack in 2015).

The report ended up spurring a lot of good discussion on the online ag forum New AgTalk. Here’s a link to the initial post in that thread:

Cereal rye termination date ahead of soybeans, on-farm research results.

Click on the succeeding links at the bottom of that post to follow the discussion.

A summary of and link to the report can be found in this blog post from last week:

Cereal Rye Cover Crop Termination Date Ahead of Soybeans, 2016 Update

Jeremy Gustafson planting soybeans into a cereal rye cover crop that had been terminated the previous day. Photo taken on May 7, 2016.

Jeremy Gustafson planting soybeans into a cereal rye cover crop that had been terminated the previous day. Photo taken on May 7, 2016.

Delaying cover crop termination until corn planting is commonly understood to cause corn yield drag. However, the potential for increased cover crop growth by delaying termination has farmers wondering if that yield drag is true and/or can be overcome. Farmer-cooperator Dick Sloan planted corn on the same date (May 5) following two cover crop termination dates: 2 weeks prior to planting corn (early) and 2 days prior to planting corn (late).

The objective of this research project was to quantify the agronomic performance of corn when delaying cover crop termination until the day of corn planting. Sloan adds, “I want to compare my results with corn to what other farmer-cooperators have previously found with soybeans. I want to grow covers longer into the spring, but I don’t want to hurt my corn crop.”

You can read the full report here: Cover Crop Termination Date Ahead of Corn.

Dick Sloan planting corn into a "green" cover crop on May 5, 2016. The cover crop was terminated on May 3 and amounted to 1,985 lb/ac of aboveground biomass.

Dick Sloan planting corn into a “green” cover crop on May 5, 2016. The cover crop (winter wheat+winter barley+cereal rye) was terminated on May 3 and amounted to 1,985 lb/ac of aboveground biomass.

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Randomized and replicated strips of the early and late termination treatments at Jeremy Gustafson's on May 6, 2016. Jeremy planted soybeans into these strips on May 7. Photo courtesy of Dean Houghton, The Furrow.

Randomized and replicated strips of the early and late termination treatments at Jeremy Gustafson’s on May 6, 2016. Jeremy planted soybeans into these strips on May 7. Photo courtesy of Dean Houghton, The Furrow.

Delaying cover crop termination until near soybean planting would allow for more biomass production by the cover crop in the spring presenting the opportunity for more environmental benefit. Two farmer-cooperators continued work they began in 2015 that compares terminating a cereal rye cover crop 2-3 weeks prior to seeding soybeans (early termination) with terminating the cover crop within 5 days of seeding soybeans (late termination).

The objective of this research project was to quantify the agronomic performance of soybeans when delaying cover crop termination to within five days of seeding the soybeans. Jeremy Gustafson hopes that more people will be comfortable planting soybeans into a thick stand of recently terminated cereal rye. In doing the trial for the second time, Jack Boyer wondered if he can reap the same weed control benefits he observed in 2015.

You can read the full report here: Cereal Rye Cover Crop Termination Date Ahead of Soybeans, 2016 Update.

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