Published Feb 21, 2019

Rotationally Raised, Episode 002: Freedom From Inputs

By Practical Farmers of Iowa


Science can do more than develop new technology to improve crop productivity. It can also teach us lessons that can enable us to save money. By adding additional crops — and in some cases livestock — to their farming operations, many farmers across the state have been able to reduce the amount of purchased inputs they rely on. With decreased reliance on purchased inputs comes independence. For many PFI members, that ability to independently make decisions about their farms and lives is a big reason why they’re farmers. Episode 2 of Rotationally Raised, “Freedom from Inputs,” goes to the roots of Practical Farmers of Iowa – conducting on-farm research to reduce input costs and take better care of our land and communities.

Side-by-side comparisons were what got PFI started in the first place, back in the farm crisis of the 1980s. That tradition of strips trials, started by PFI co-founder Dick Thompson, has been carried on by Matt Liebman in his work at Iowa State University’s Marsden Farm over the past 15 years. Back in 1998 when Matt arrived in Iowa, he saw crop and livestock diversity as the key to successful, sustainable farms — including Dick’s farm — and set to work designing a long-term research study to quantify some of the benefits. Nearly two decades later, he and other colleagues have published numerous findings related to profitability, crop production, weed dynamics, soil health, water quality, disease suppression and more.

Practical Farmers of Iowa owes a big thanks to Matt Liebman of Iowa State University for this one. Not only for taking the time to be interviewed for this episode, but for the work he’s done over the last couple decades for the members of PFI and for the state of Iowa as a whole. If you’re interested in more of Matt’s research, see his website or check one of his presentations at PFI events:

To learn more about small grains production in Iowa, check out Practical Farmers of Iowa’s small grains page. There, you can find research reports, production manuals, articles, blogs, conference presentations and more.

Watch the video version of this podcast

Previous Episode 001: Small Grains: A Revival

Next Episode 003: What to plant, where and why