Cover Crop Math
The outcomes of our Cover Crop Math project, which was completed in September, are still being shared widely. Corn & Soybean Digest used one of the fourteen feature stories produced by CTIC as the publication’s cover story in April. The story features Illinois farmers John and Dean Werries.
Several more of those feature stories are scheduled to run in Corn & Soybean Digest in the coming months, which includes their website. CTIC will also publish those stories on our website in the near future.
Supply Chain Sustainability in Iowa
Last fall, CTIC finished the first phase of a project funded by the Iowa Department of Ag and Land Stewardship. For the last three years, this project enhanced an ongoing supply chain sustainability initiative with technical and financial support that helped participating farmers plant nearly 40,000 acres of cover crops.
For our next step, CTIC is joining partners including The Nature Conservancy, Practical Farmers of Iowa, and Unilever to encourage greater adoption of conservation systems among farmers already enrolled in supply chain sustainability initiatives. This project will focus outreach and education on farmers in on Iowa’s Skunk watersheds, as well as utilizing the recently developed 4R Plus framework to engage ag retailers, CCAs, and other advisors at the local level in a common conversation about the potential economic and environmental benefits of conservation.
CTIC manages the Bee Integrated project on behalf of the Honey Bee Health Coalition to demonstrate how farmers and beekeepers can collaborate on a practical system of best practices to improve pollinator health outcomes. After completing a successful pilot year in 2017, Bee Integrated is on track to enroll additional farmer-beekeeper pairs this spring. The project’s first year yielded valuable insight into what it takes to integrate individual best practices into a practical system for working farms and beekeeping operations.
National Water Quality Initiative:
CTIC is currently working with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) on a project in support of the National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI). This project is identifying successful watershed management activities that engage landowners, farmers, and the broader public to protect water quality. Insights developed through this project will inform future NRCS efforts to support local watershed initiatives with technical and financial resources.
As a first step, CTIC is convening watershed leaders from across the country at five forums to learn from their experience—successful or otherwise—with diverse watershed management and communication strategies. Forums have already taken place in North Carolina, Illinois, Washington, and Vermont. Our fifth and last forum will take place in Oklahoma in early May. For more information, contact Chad Watts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
National Aquatic Resource Surveys:
CTIC is writing a series of articles profiling farmers who have improved habitat and reduced nutrient loading in surface waters. The articles will be designed for placement in agricultural publications, environmental media and local newspapers to highlight environmental improvements by farmers and to inspire others to protect water quality.
We’re looking for examples of great on-farm projects where voluntary nutrient management practices, habitat restoration and/or structural improvements are reducing nutrient loading and other water quality impairments. If you know of a project or a farmer that fits this description, contact Chad Watts at email@example.com.
CTIC is currently working with Applied GeoSolutions, a data analytics company based out of New Hampshire, to refine and implement a remote sensing-based system that estimates crop residue amounts and determines the presence or absence of cover crops on cropland. Through this technology, called the Operational Tillage Information System (OpTIS), CTIC will lead the next phase of the Crop Residue Management (CRM) survey, which CTIC operated between 1989 and 2004.
The current OpTIS project will collect crop residue and cover crops data from the U.S. Corn Belt between 2005 and 2017, filling gaps in tillage records that have widened since CTIC’s last national survey in 2004. In addition to documenting farm management, OpTIS uses established models to estimate environmental outcomes including soil carbon sequestration, nutrient movement, greenhouse gas emissions, and water holding capacity. Data and information from OpTIS should be available from CTIC in the spring of 2019. You can contact Chad Watts at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.