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Opportunities to connect in coming months
As farmers finish bringing in their annual crops and prepare for the winter months, there are numerous opportunities to connect, share knowledge, and replenish energy for a new growing season. This Iowa News provides links to some of the upcoming virtual conferences and events that may be of interest. Whether you are a farmer looking to explore new ideas or a friend of farmers looking to understand the challenges and rewards that come with farming, we encourage you to consider attending some (or all!) of the events found below.
Carmen Black, farmer and friend to farmers
PAN’s own Carmen Black will be awarded Iowa Farmers Union’s “Friend to Farmers” award for her efforts in advocating for legislative solutions to pesticide drift and to support young farmers in the state. Carmen operates Sundog Farm and Local Harvest CSA near Solon, Iowa, with her sister, Maja, and in the winter months works as a member of PAN’s Iowa team. We are pleased that Carmen will, once again, join us in our efforts in the months to come.
Dicamba registration renewed despite court order
The EPA recently announced that it is re-approving the conditional registration of dicamba products for over-the-top applications on soybeans and cotton for the next five years, despite a 2020 9th Circuit US Court of Appeals ruling against this registration. The circuit court opinion cited “enormous and unprecedented damage” caused by dicamba products in the past few years.
It is clear that this decision is about protecting the market share of chemical companies and their corresponding genetically enhanced seed stock rather than providing farmers with choices for the tools they use to grow their crops. Farmers who might want to select a different seed product and those who might want to pursue alternative crops or alternative cropping systems are simply left to wonder how much damage they must expect in the coming months to their fields.
The past growing season provided more evidence that dicamba products (BASF’s Engenia, Bayer/Monsanto’s ExtendiMax and Corteva’s FeXipan) are not suitable for over-the-top application, especially during warmer months, when these products are prone to volatilization, resulting in drift damage as many as four days after application. The state of Iowa reported a record number of dicamba-related drift complaints and weed scientists noted that damage was worse than prior years, showing plant injury on a ‘landscape level’ throughout the state.
Our food and science
Diversity maintains crop yields
A new meta-analysis performed by an international team of researchers, including agronomy professor Matt Liebman from Iowa State University, found that diversified crop systems can be economically feasible as well as ecologically beneficial. This research analyzed over 5,000 original studies and reviewed 98 other meta-analysis studies in an effort to identify the take-aways that might be found in existing research.
“The overall conclusion is there's a lot to be gained from diversifying cropping practices," said Liebman in a Science Daily interview. "Across many different countries in many different climates and soils, with many different crops, the general pattern is that with diversification, you maintain or increase crop yields while gaining environmental benefits."
It is clear that strategies to diversify farming operations in the state, such as longer rotations, interspersed prairie strips, and incorporation of natural habitat areas, can be beneficial to the health of our soil and water. Research is telling us that we can support our natural resources without forsaking the bottom line.
The Iowa Farmers Union is holding its Annual Convention virtually this year from December 3 to 5. The conference includes a presentation by Tom Philpott, author of Perilous Bounty, and soil health scientist Roy Archuleta is the keynote speaker.
Opportunities abound for learning on December 3 and 4 with Practical Farmers of Iowa’s Cover Crop Boot Camp. There are three hour-long sessions each day from 9am to noon covering everything from cover crops for weed suppression to grazing.
PFI’s annual Beginning Farmer Retreat will also be held online this year. This event will start on Friday, December 11 and conclude Saturday, December 12.
The Iowa Organic Association will be holding its Annual Meeting virtually on December 1 from 6:30 to 8:00 pm. Speakers will include PAN’s Rob Faux.
The Prairie on Farms virtual field day hosted by the Tallgrass Prairie Center at University of Northern Iowa was held on November 19. This recorded event will be available in the coming weeks and focused on prairie plants with a strong forb (wildflower) component.
Iowa State University’s Ajay Nair provided a quick and easy summary of Fall Chores for the Vegetable Garden that is shared by the Iowa Fruit and Vegetable Association.
In the midst of 2020’s challenges, I’ve been inspired by the amazing ways our partners and communities have shown up for each other — from mutual aid efforts, to joyful organizing for long-term change, to record-breaking civic engagement around the election. Now, we continue the hard work of building the healthy, resilient food and farming system we so urgently need. I hope you’ll consider a year-end gift to support our efforts as we move with determination into the year ahead.