Ankeny, Iowa — Soil and water are essential for a healthy environment, sustaining wildlife habitat, and of course – growing soybeans. It’s little wonder, therefore, that farmers and landowners care about sustaining and improving the health of these two natural resources.
The fall edition of the Iowa Soybean Association’s (ISA) “The State of Soy” explores the current status of Iowa’s soil and water health, and the status of efforts to increase adoption of different environmental programs and practices.
“If I had to give Iowa’s water quality a letter grade, it would be a ‘B’ or ‘C-‘ in some places and a ‘D’ in others,” said ISA Environmental Programs and Services Director Roger Wolf. “There’s no doubt we have made some progress, but there are significant challenges that remain.”
One of those challenges is farmer-landowner alignment. Dave Muth of Peoples Co. says progress happens most quickly when both farmer and landowner have the same vision and long-term goals for their land.
“Soil erosion has gotten a lot of attention over the past decades and we’ve seen a real resurgence of soil-health conversations,” he said. “But we have complicated factors like annual leases where farmers have to meet the bottom line on an annual basis. From a landowner perspective, it can be hard to pour resources in to improve certain conservation efforts.”
Wolf added that farmer-landowner alignment is unprecedented today in terms of addressing these environmental issues.
“There’s a misperception that farmers don’t care or that it’s just ‘big ag’,” said Wolf. “Farmers have no choice but to farm in the realities given to them. We look back to the 80s and 90s where we’ve had continued tremendous progress of no-till being adopted and it’s easy to see that farmers learn, adapt and care very much.”
Additionally, Muth said there are more practices being implemented across the state that point to increased conservation and adoption practices.
“We are seeing practices like no-till, cover crops and precision management being implemented on more acres,” he added. “Nutrient management and integrated pest management being made more available and easier to implement is key to continuing that momentum.”
Wolf’s ideal vision for quantifiable improvement in water quality is focused on a watershed approach.
“I believe in the watershed approach because you’re putting boundaries around an area and we know we’ve made progress with this,” he said. “Progress happens at the rate of investment. If we had more funding, we could speed it up. I’d love it to go faster and for there to be more resources because we have a big job to do. Therein lies some of the challenge.”
This episode and previous editions of the “The State of Soy” can be viewed online at iasoybeans.com/news/videos as well as ISA’s social media platforms including Facebook and YouTube.