Water Quality, Nutrient Reduction and Corn Yields!

What do you think of when I say, "water quality and farmer," or "farmers and the environment?" Students from Center Point-Urbana High School had the opportunity to FarmChat® with Spencer Jordan, Linn County Farm Bureau Board of Director, about some of the practices he implements on his farm.

FarmChat® utilizes technology to bring the farm experiences directly into classrooms. Using a laptop at the school and a mobile device at the farm, students connect with and directly speak with the farmer. Students can see the farm and ask the farmer questions.

Spencer began by providing an overview of the farm and the type of practices he implements. Conversations are then guided by student questions! Students learned about grassed waterways, nutrient application, yields, runoff, and signs of nutrient deficiency.

Students asked great questions: I have provided a brief answer to a few of the questions below.

What is the difference between a grassed waterway and a buffer strip?

- A grassed waterway is constructed channels in a field that are seeded to grass. The vegetation helps slow the movement of water. A buffer strip is a section of plants between fields and streams, creeks, lakes, and wetlands. Buffer strips help filter water before entering a body of water.

How do you know where to place a grassed waterway?

- Often times grassed waterways are seeded in highly erodible places.

How do you know how much fertilizer to add?

-Spencer uses soil samples, soil maps, GPS, and previous crop yield data to help know how much fertilizer needs to be added.

Why is seed corn detasseled?

-Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation explained detasseling in a blog post, "The seed that they buy is often hybrid varieties that have beneficial traits like being drought tolerant or disease resistant. To get these special hybrids, farmers and the companies they work with have to make sure to cross pollinate the corn. Corn pollen spreads by wind so how do farmers ensure that the pollen from one type of corn lands on the silk of another type of corn to create the hybrid."

How can you tell when corn is nutrient deficient?

- There are many ways to tell if a plant is nutrient deficient. Signs of yellow or purple leaves, spots, weak stocks, delayed pollination, etc.

Has no-till made it harder to plant?

- No-till is when seeds are planted without plowing. This keeps topsoil in place and helps preserve the microorganisms. Spencer said it was challenging at first but they have been doing it for quite a few years now and the soil has adjusted. It is his preferred method but occasionally tillage is used if the soil has become tough.

Every farm is different and farmers implement the practices that work best for his/her farm. It is always interesting to hear about the different ways farmers are striving to care for their crops, animals and land!

FarmChat® is great for all ages. We have hosted virtual fieldtrips for grades K-12. Email mhibbs@ifbf.org to learn more!

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