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.
On March 29, Jack Boyer hosted a field day to share his experiences and successes with using cover crops on his family’s farm near Reinbeck. Jack and his wife, Marion, are lifetime members of Practical Farmers. They raise corn, seed corn, soybeans and cereal rye for cover crop seed. They have been integrating cover crops into the fields for the last 6 years and are beginning to see the benefits, but still looking to find the quantifiable financial benefit in addition to the environmental benefit. Their over-arching goal: To leave the farm in as good or better condition than when we obtained it.
We had planned to head out to the field to see cover crops and cover crop roots in a soil pit but the rain that fell all morning didn’t allow us to do so. Luckily for us, Jack and folks from the NRCS did their best to “bring the field inside.” Continue reading
Green manure cover crops best fit into extended and diversified crop rotations between the small grain and corn phases of the rotation. Farmer-cooperator Wade Dooley compared corn following two green manure strategies: a red clover + sweet mix interseeded with a cereal rye seed crop vs. a mix of oats + sorghum-sudangrass + peas + rapeseed mix (OSPR mix) established after cereal rye seed harvest.
The objective of this research project was to quantify the agronomic effect on corn yields of green manure cover crops frost-seeded with a small grain or seeded following small grain harvest. Wade lists gaining knowledge, improving soil quality and improving profitability as goals for this on-farm project.
You can read the full report here: Effect on Corn of Green Manure Cover Crops Established with Cereal Rye Seed Crop
This is the second installment of our “Better Know an On-Farm Research Project” series. In celebration of Practical Farmers of Iowa’s Cooperators’ Program turning 30-years-old this year, we’re looking back at some past on-farm research trials. Last month, we featured Vic Madsen discussing strip trials he and several other Practical Farmers conducted that investigated N fertilizer rates for corn. Below, we review some trials from the early 1990s that took a look at applying biological and alternative amendments for corn and soybean production. Though he didn’t participate himself, Vic remembered these trials and suggested I reach out to one of the cooperators who did participate. So I gave Dave Lubben a call. Dave and his wife, Lisa, farm near Monticello in Jones County. In 2013, they were awarded as Master Researchers for their efforts over the years in conducting over 20 on-farm research trials and hosting more than 5 field days.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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).
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