Member Priority: Research and Demonstration

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Carmen Black and Mark Quee raise sheep on their diversified vegetable farms. They were curious if grazing a cover crop prior to a fall crop, rather than simply terminating the cover crop by mowing and tillage, would have an impact on the yield of the next crop. For this trial each farmer measured the yield […]

December 6, 2017 

BLOG POST

After completing two years of cucumber enterprise budgets, Ann Franzenburg and Emma Johnson looked at their farms and decided: “Let’s do cherry tomatoes.” For this enterprise budget, both farmers did a careful accounting of the revenue, costs, and labor for their 2017 cherry tomato crops. The analysis of their data, and their comments on varieties, […]

 

BLOG POST

Six farmers compared three or four
lettuce varieties, Coastal Star, Hampton,
Magenta, and Muir, to determine
which produces better during summer
months (harvest July – Sept.) in Iowa.
Key Findings
• Magenta had the highest yields on
three of the six farms, and was much
more heat tolerant than Coastal Star.
• Coastal Star produced sizeable heads –
particularly in earlier successions – but
tended to bolt quickly.
• Farmers found they could grow quality
summer head lettuce using these
varieties, though specific preferences
differed by farm.

 

RESEARCH REPORT

Feeding cows during the winter is the
greatest expense for most grassbased
operations.
• Grazing cover crops and stockpiled
pastures provides low-cost feed during
times farmers would normally be
feeding hay.
• For many years, Dave and Meg
Schmidt have recorded grazing
moves and the amount of hay they
fed to the herd.
• From 2013 to 2017, they experimented
with feeding cover crops,
crop residue and stockpiled pastures
to cut down on the amount of hay
needed.
Key findings:
• During the winters of 2013-2014
and 2014-2015, cover crops and
crop residue provided almost half
of the winter feed needs for the
herd.
• During the winter of 2015-2016,
the most hay was fed, because
the farmers were not able to plant
cover crops the season prior.
• The least hay was fed in 2016-2017,
due to a combination of grazing
stockpiled pastures along with
cover crops and crop residue.
• Calf average daily gains were greatest
in 2016-2017.
• Diverse winter forage sources
allow the Schmidts to feed less hay,
increase the size of their herd and
save money.

 

RESEARCH REPORT

Wild bird populations can thrive in
properly managed working landscapes.
• Cattle activity changes grassland structure;
creating areas with short and tall
vegetation, which provides habitat that
is less available in conservation areas.
• For some species, rotationally grazed
pastures have the capacity to support
greater bird population sizes compared
to conservation areas that are
not grazed.
• Prairies and pastures complement one
another to protect a wider range of
birds then either habitat alone.
Key findings
• Restored prairie in a conservation
area supported 285 birds (21 species)
in 2016 and 230 birds (25 species) in
2017.
• Rotationally grazed perennial pasture
supported 553 birds (22 species) in
2016 and 468 birds (23 species) in
2017.
• Rotationally grazed perennial + annual
pasture supported 524 birds (28
species) and supported 545 birds (21
species) in 2017.
• Pastures better supported some birds
that are considered in decline than the
restored prairie.

 

RESEARCH REPORT

• This project compares yields of
fall brassica crops following a
spring cover crop of oats and
peas. In treatment plots spring
cover was grazed by sheep; control
plots were un-grazed.
Key Findings
• There were no statistical differences
in brassica yield by treatment (grazed vs. un-grazed
cover crop).
• Though Black had more than 3
tons DM/ac of aboveground biomass,
the sheep trampled more
than they foraged because the
oats were too fibrous.
• Black is interested in grazing
more spring-seeded cover crops
based on trial results; Quee plans
to stay with his current system of
grazing in fallow years and in the
early spring and late fall.

December 5, 2017 

RESEARCH REPORT

Two farmers provided enterprise
budgets for cherry tomato production
in 2017.
• Cherry tomatoes were grown in a
heated greenhouse (Ann Franzenburg),
and an unheated high tunnel (Emma
Johnson).
• Revenue and expenses, including a
breakdown of labor, was reported by
each farmer.
Key Findings
• Labor was the largest expense for both
Franzenburg and Johnson, accounting
for 62% and 68% of their total
expenses, respectively.
• Harvesting and packing was the most
time-consuming task on both farms,
accounting for 74% of labor-hours at
Franzenburg and 62% of labor-hours
at Johnson.
• Both farms had profitable cherry
tomato crops, netting $1.31/lb at Franzenburg
and $1.54/lb at Johnson.

 

RESEARCH REPORT

A roller-crimper presents farmers the opportunity to mechanically terminate cover crops without chemicals or tillage. This method is dependent on a large amount of cover crop growth and the cover crop reaching the flowering stage before crimping. A roller-crimper is a large, metal cylinder with “chevron” pattern blades that simultaneously lays the cover crop flat […]

December 4, 2017 

BLOG POST

How does a cover crop affect corn and soybean yields? Winter Cereal Rye Cover Crop Effect on Cash Crop Yield: Year 9 is now available! This is a long-term project being conducted by Iowa Learning Farms and Practical Farmers of Iowa. Between 2009 and 2017, 12 farmer-cooperators have contributed to 63 site-years of on-farm research to investigate what effect […]

November 30, 2017 

BLOG POST

A roller-crimper presents farmers the
opportunity to mechanically terminate
cover crops without chemicals or
tillage. This method is dependent on
a large amount of cover crop growth
and the cover crop reaching the
flowering stage before crimping.
• Farmer-cooperator Tim Sieren
compared soybean seeding dates
relative to cover crop termination
(before and after) as well as cover
crop termination techniques (chemical
vs. roll-crimp).
Key Findings
• Cover crop termination date had
the strongest effect on soybeans.
Soybeans yielded best when the cover
crop was chemically terminated on
May 5 and the soybeans were seeded
on Apr. 24 or May 7.
• Roll-crimp termination of the cover
crop was a challenge and this was
attributed to a thinned cover crop
stand resulting from drilling soybeans
on May 7 before roll-crimping on May
30.

 

RESEARCH REPORT