conservation

Congress has spent weeks trying to meld the House and Senate versions of the next farm bill into one agreeable piece of legislation.

Left in the balance is the current farm bill, which will expire Sept. 30 without an extension.

David Nunn

The Earth’s fossil record shows that the planet has been through several periods of mass extinction. The Fifth Extinction was the one that ended the dinosaurs, and many people believe that we are now in the midst of the Sixth Extinction, driven this time not by an asteroid, but by pressures created by humans.

Wikimedia Commons

Conservationists say they’ve made progress in the 10 years since historic floods hit eastern Iowa. Now they're calling for even more investment in flood protection. 

Amy Mayer / IPR

An increasing number of farmers is using cover crops to keep water, soil and nutrients from running off fields. But while many studies have shown the agronomic and environmental benefits of the plants that come up after cash crops such as corn or soybeans get harvested, it’s been harder to determine whether a farm business will recover the initial planting cost.

Kate Payne / IPR

Early results from a survey of the Iowa River show mussel populations are lower than researchers hoped. Scientists are monitoring the animals to better understand water quality in the river. 

Devlon Duthie via flickr creative commons

Iowa City is once again debating how to rein in a growing urban deer population. As the city has done in the past, local officials are considering hiring sharpshooters to cull the deer. But residents are divided on how to manage the deer, which some say are damaging gardens and spurring car crashes.

Kate Payne / IPR

A non-profit organization hoping to restore native habitats in eastern Iowa is getting some help from a herd of goats.  Seventeen goats are currently eating their way through 40 acres of invasive plants on the Muddy Creek Preserve in Johnson County. Staffers at the Bur Oak Land Trust hope to ultimately restore the parcel to pre-settlement conditions, but they say they need the animals' help to get it done.

Courtesy of Sustainable Iowa Land Trust

Sustainable Iowa Land Trust is selling a permanently protected farm in Southwest Iowa in a move to pay off debt and honor the farm’s previous owners.

Tom Gustafson / Courtesy of Okoboji Tourism

A group of residents in northwest Iowa has plans to spruce up the area leading into the Iowa Great Lakes.

Nick Brincks

How do you get kids to pay attention to lessons about important but not necessarily attention-grabbing topics like water quality and soil erosion?

Heavy metal rock anthems about cover crops and raps about watersheds are not often linked to science education, but for Jacqueline Comito, program director for Iowa Learning Farms, it's a perfect fit.

"Sense of humor is, I think, one of the most powerful tools in our arsenal," says Comito, who is also a musician.

Amy Mayer / IPR

Bruce Carney raises cattle, poultry and a few sheep on his 300-acre farm in Maxwell. He no longer grows any grain, but is preparing for new crops of a different kind.

Orange flags dot what was previously a cattle lot, with a ridge (or swale) built around it to manage water flow. The fruit trees Carney will be planting at each of the flags later this year will also help.

John Fowler via flickr creative commons / https://www.flickr.com/photos/snowpeak/27057517509/

A rollback of federal rules on migratory birds has conservationists worried. The federal government has announced it will stop prosecuting companies that accidentally kill species protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. They fear the changes could pave the way for industrial developments that pose a threat to the species in Iowa.

Michael Leland

Bison once roamed the plains in herds so thick they obscured the land. They were hunted nearly to extinction and now only live in controlled and managed herds.

On this hour of Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe talks about the history of the American bison and their relationship with humans with author, conservationist, and bison rancher Dan O'Brien, author of Great Plains Bison.

"Their impact on the flora and fauna of the Great Plains is what makes the Great Plains what they are," O'Brien says.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

A new partnership between the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency, which manages the federal crop insurance program, aims to keep more of Iowa’s farmland green in the off-season.

The cover crop premium discount will give farmers five dollars per acre off on their crop insurance premium for acres they plant with cover crops.

Practical Farmers of Iowa’s Sarah Carlson says in a national survey farmers indicated they wanted this type of program.

COURTESY OF CHRISTOPHER GANNON/IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY

A new study says small patches of native prairie plants provide a range of conservation benefits to Iowa’s landscape and could reduce water pollution from farm fields.

So-called “prairie strips” are patches of land strategically planted to native, perennial mixes of grasses and flowers on the edges of crop fields.

Amy Mayer/IPR

 

On a cloudy summer day, Iowa farmer Wendy Johnson lifts the corner of a mobile chicken tractor, a lightweight plastic frame covered in wire mesh that has corralled her month-old meat chickens for a few days, and frees several dozen birds to peck the surrounding area at will. Soon, she’ll sell these chickens to customers at local markets in eastern Iowa.

Amy Mayer/IPR

Hybrid seed corn and nitrogen fertilizer transformed farming in the 20th century, but they are also closely tied to some of today’s major agricultural challenges. That has prompted some members of two families that played pivotal roles in developing farm innovations to work on putting a lighter, 21st century stamp on the landscape.

In Carlisle, Iowa, Rob Fleming still uses the 1947 Ford 2n tractor he drove on the family farm as a teenager. Back then, his family’s fields were lined with neat rows of corn. Not anymore.

Flickr / Lindsey Broadhead

The USDA has allocated 115 thousand acres from the Conservation Reserve Program to Iowa, so farmers previously shut out of CRP can apply on a first-come first-served basis this month.

Contracts on some 2. 5 million acres nationwide are expiring this year, and the federal government is taking a more targeted approach to the program, which pays farmers to transfer environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production into conservation.

Frank Morris/Harvest Public Media

Nestled among acres of wheat fields and rows of corn, the Land Institute of Salina, Kansas, may seem an unlikely Mecca for environmental activists. After decades of leading the charge to develop alternative ways of raising grain, however, the facility still attracts crowds hunting for sustainable agricultural solutions.

Flickr / Michael Jenkins

As fall hunting seasons approach, sportsmen and women will be able spread out more due to a USDA grant that incentivizes Iowa landowners to put private property into conservation. The Iowa Habitat and Access Program, or IHAP, pays people to improve natural habitat on their properties. In exchange, they allow the public the hunt on their lands.

Amy Mayer/IPR

A group of agricultural companies, food manufacturers, retailers and environmental groups plant to raise money to further conservation practices in Iowa, Illinois and Nebraska.

The Midwest Row Crop Collaborative announced its launch at the Farm Progress Show in Boone Wednesday. Founding partners include Cargill, the Environmental Defense Fund, General Mills, Kellogg Company, Monsanto, PepsiCo, The Nature Conservancy, Walmart and the World Wildlife Fund.

Iowa Public Radio / Clay Masters

Iowa's governor wants to kill two birds with one stone.

Gov. Terry Branstad says by extending a sales tax increase enacted in 2008* to 2049, schools will get an additional $10 million annually for things like technology and infrastructure projects. He projects that the state will also raise nearly $4.7 billion in this period to address soil and water conservation issues related to agriculture.

IPR file photo by Amy Mayer

An international meeting on climate change begins today in Paris and could have reverberations across Iowa and the Midwest.

A University of Iowa engineering professor says negotiators will have to push beyond the promises already made by the United States and other countries.

"All the pledges taken together that have been filed in advance of this meeting still do not even allow us to level off total greenhouse gas emissions for the planet," says Jerry Schnoor, who will attend the talks.  

Seney Natural History Association

As agriculture and new construction in Iowa continue to expand and occupy Iowa's wildlife habitat, humans are in contact with predators like coyotes more and more. Like a caller said today during the our broadcast, one of the ways to handle that problem is to kill the predators that threaten domestic pets and backyard chickens. 

But author John Shivik says there’s another way. “Moving forward, we need to balance lethal versus non-lethal methods of dealing with predators. We can biologically deal with the issue instead of killing them to make ourselves feel better.”  

Photo by Amy Mayer

Throughout the cropland of the Midwest, farmers use chemicals on their fields to nourish the plants and the soil. But excess nitrogen, phosphorus and other nutrients can wash off the fields and into streams, rivers and eventually the Gulf of Mexico.

New tools can help farmers monitor their soil and water so they can become part of the solution to this widespread problem.

Abby Wendle/Harvest Public Media

The monarch butterfly may soon find more of its food in Iowa.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

A group representing many Iowa farmers is decrying the Des Moines Water Works’ decision to sue three Iowa counties over water quality.

Rich Egger for Harveset Public Media

Land in Fulton County, Ill., that was farmed for more than 80 years is being returned to its original wetland state – and the early results are promising for what is now the Emiquon Nature Preserve.

“People give us credit for the way this looks now but it’s really Mother Nature that makes it look the way it does,” said Doug Blodgett, director of river conservation for the environmental group the Nature Conservancy.

Mark Stevens

A mother black bear and her two cubs were spotted earlier this week, on the border of Fayette and Clayton Counties, in northeast Iowa.  The next day, a beekeeper discovered bear scat and paw prints near some damaged hives.

Also this week, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources confirmed the state's first mountain lion of 2014. A deer carcass with signs of mountain lion predation was found in Cherokee County, in northeast Iowa.

Petrarchan47 / Wikimedia Commons

A beloved Iowa eagle was found dead earlier this week. Indy, as his fans called him, a young male eaglet whose hatching was witnessed by thousands online earlier this spring was electrocuted by a power pole on Tuesday. The bird had a large following in the state and across the country; more than 500 people have posted condolences on the Raptor Resource Project’s Facebook page. Host Ben Kieffer speaks with their executive director, Bob Anderson, about what happened to the bird and what can be done to protect these eagles in the future.

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