Posts tagged agriculture

All about lawns

   It’s spring and attention is turning to lawns. Two things today about lawn care. The first is from Linn County Master Gardener Claire Smith and the second came to me from Dustin Vande Hoef, communications director for the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey sent the message to remind homeowners that spring is an ideal time to improve soil quality in our yards and that restoration of the soil can help retain water, prevent erosion and protect water quality.

 

This is from Claire Smith:

 

   Are you ready for some mowing?  Depending on the weather, your summer lawn mowing and maintenance can begin anytime in April.

Did you service the mower last fall?  If you didn’t have time then, you should take time now.  Beg or bribe your favorite spouse or relative to change the oil, kick the tires, replace the spark plug and air filter, and be certain the blades are sharp and not bent. 

If the ground temperature is 55-60’ you can commence any necessary re-seeding and repairs. Lawn repair kits that will contain seed and mulch can be purchased.  But remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is so do not succumb to terrific sounding no maintenance grasses and groundcover.   Apply the patch after you have removed the dead turf and loosened and amended the soil.

   Pizza or ice cream treats may create some enthusiasm to have the kids or grandkids help you rake and remove clumps of leaves and other debris left over from winter ice and snow. Initiate a game of pickup sticks (branches). Tamp down runways created by winter vole activity and fill in holes. 

  Hose off lawn areas along walks, drives and roadways that have been exposed to deicing compounds or your grass may not reappear.  Keep newly seeded and sodded areas moist to reduce stress on young and developing root systems.   Watering an established lawn is not necessary now.  Wait until May to fertilize.  Over watering and over fertilizing does more harm than good on your lawn:  strike a happy medium.  Excessive use of insecticides may reduce nature’s aerating machines, the earthworm. Monitor your lawn for any insect damage prior to spraying. 

   Proper mowing is a real key to a healthy lawn.  The suggested mowing height is 3-3 ½” Taller grass forms a deeper root system.  Stronger plants are more likely to fend off insects, disease and weeds.  Remove only 1/3 of the total height of the grass and leave the clippings on the lawn to decompose. Clippings add nitrogen, moisture and organic matter to the soil.  Varying the direction and pattern of mowing will reduce the wear and tear on the lawn.

   So, are you ready for some mowing?  Grab a bottle of lemonade and your hat and sunscreen. Hop on the mower and enjoy the spring weather and the start of a beautiful lawn.

 

From Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship:

 

    Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey today encouraged homeowners to consider incorporating soil quality restoration efforts into their annual spring yard work.

   Often in urban areas, especially new developments, the topsoil has been removed and what is left is compacted.  Restoring soil quality helps yards and green spaces absorb and infiltrate rainfall, which reduces the homeowners need to water their yard while protecting water quality and preventing runoff.

   “Iowa is known for it’s great soil, and rightfully so, but we need to make sure we are taking care of that soil so that it is healthy,” Northey said.  “What made our soil so productive was the high organic matter content and porosity that absorbed rain and allowed roots to grow deep.  Soil quality restoration helps recreate those conditions that allow plants to thrive.”

   If you are establishing a new lawn, perform deep tillage (8-12 inches deep) before seeding or sodding to breaks up compacted soils.  Add compost to increase organic matter.  It is recommended that soils have 5 percent or more organic matter before sodding or seeding, which can be achieved by incorporating 1 to 3 inches of compost.

   If you have an existing lawn, consider aerating the soil and then apply a blanket of compost in the spring or fall.  An application of one-quarter to three-quarters of an inch of compost following aeration will help fill the holes with organic matter to amend the soil and allow existing turf to grow through the compost amendment. If your turf is patchy, add seed to the compost application to thicken up the vegetation.

   “Improving the soil quality in your yard will make your lawn healthier, require less water and reduce the need for fertilizer and pesticide applications,” Northey added.  “A better looking lawn and improved water quality in the state are possible when we better manage runoff through soil quality restoration and other measures that allow water to infiltrate.”

   There are a number of other lawn care tips to help care for your soil and promote infiltration of water and prevent runoff.

  • Begin mowing after the first of May and end near Labor Day.
  • Set the mower at three inches high. The higher the grass shoots the deeper the grass roots, making it better able to survive dry periods.
  • Use the mulch setting on your mower to leave the grass clippings on the yard. Don’t lower organic matter content by removing clippings.
  • Consider using native plants for accent in planting beds or in rain gardens to minimize the amount of turf grass.
  • Seed your lawn to a native turf mixture that has deep roots and thrives in Iowa’s weather conditions without extra care.

   More information about urban conservation, rain gardens and a soil quality brochure are available on the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship’s website at www.IowaAgriculture.gov

 

 

               

               

 

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Study says better to leave land unfarmed than plow to grow corn for ethanol

This study, critiquing corn-for-ethanol’s carbon footprint, came to me today from Duke University Office of News & Communications in North Carolina. Perhaps some Iowans would like to weigh in on the topic.

DURHAM, N.C. —  To avoid creating greenhouse gases, it makes more sense using  today’s technology to leave land unfarmed in conservation reserves than to plow it up for corn to make biofuel, according to a comprehensive Duke University-led study.

“Converting set-asides to corn-ethanol production is an inefficient and expensive greenhouse gas mitigation policy that should not be encouraged until ethanol-production technologies improve,” the study’s authors reported in the March edition of the research journal Ecological Applications.

Nevertheless, farmers and producers are already receiving federal subsidies to grow more corn for ethanol under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

“One of our take-home messages is that conservation programs are currently a cheaper and more efficient greenhouse gas policy for taxpayers than corn-ethanol production,” said biologist Robert Jackson, the Nicholas Professor of Global Environmental Change at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment, who led the study.

Making ethanol from corn reduces atmospheric releases of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide because the CO2 emitted when the ethanol burns is “canceled out” by the carbon dioxide taken in by the next crop of growing plants, which use it in photosynthesis. That means equivalent amounts of carbon dioxide are removed from the atmosphere and “fixed” into plant tissues.

But the study notes that some CO2 not counterbalanced by plant carbon uptake gets released when corn is grown and processed for ethanol. Furthermore, ethanol contains only about 70 percent of gasoline’s energy.

“So we actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions only 20 percent when we substitute one liter of ethanol for one liter of gasoline,” said Gervasio Piñeiro, the study’s first author, who is a Buenos Aires, Argentina-based scientist and postdoctoral research associate in Jackson’s Duke laboratory.

Also, by the researchers’ accounting, the carbon benefits of using ethanol only begin to show up years after corn growing begins. “Depending on prior land use” they wrote in their report, “our analysis shows that carbon releases from the soil after planting corn for ethanol may in some cases completely offset carbon gains attributed to biofuel generation for at least 50 years.”

The report said that “cellulosic” species — such as switchgrass — are a better option for curbing emissions than corn because they don’t require annual replowing and planting. In contrast, a single planting of cellulosic species will continue growing and producing for years while trapping more carbon in the soil.

“Until cellulosic ethanol production is feasible, or corn-ethanol technology improves, corn-ethanol subsidies are a poor investment economically and environmentally,” Jackson added.

However, the report noted that a cost-effective technology to convert cellulosics to ethanol may be years away. So the Duke team contrasted today’s production practices for corn-based ethanol with what will be possible after the year 2023 for cellulosic-based ethanol.

By analyzing 142 different soil studies, the researchers found that conventional corn farming can remove 30 to 50 percent of the carbon stored in the soil.  In contrast, cellulosic ethanol production entails mowing plants as they grow — often on land that is already in conservation reserve. That, their analysis found, can ultimately increase soil carbon levels between 30 to 50 percent instead of reducing them.

“It’s like hay baling,” Piñeiro said. “You plant it once and it stays there for 20 years. And it takes much less energy and carbon dioxide emissions to produce that than to produce corn.”

As part of its analysis, the Duke team calculated how corn-for-ethanol and cellulosic-for-ethanol production — both now and in the future — would compare with agricultural set-asides. Those comparisons were expressed in economic terms with a standard financial accounting tool called “net present value.”

For now, setting aside acreage and letting it return to native vegetation was rated the best way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, outweighing the results of corn-ethanol production over the first 48 years. However, “once commercially available, cellulosic ethanol produced in set-aside grasslands should provide the most efficient tool for greenhouse gas reduction of any scenario we examined,” the report added.

The worst strategy for reducing carbon dioxide emissions is to plant corn-for-ethanol on land that was previously designated as set aside — a practice included in current federal efforts to ramp up biofuel production, the study found. “You will lose a lot of soil carbon, which will escape into the atmosphere as CO2,” said Piñeiro.

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation, the Center for Global Change at Duke University and by the Agencia Nacional de Promoción Científica y Tecnologíca of Argentina.
 
Other researchers in the study included Brian Murray, the director for economic analysis at Duke’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and a Nicholas School research professor; Justin Baker, a researcher with Murray and Jackson; and Esteban Jobbagy, a professor at the University of San Luis in Argentina who received his Ph.D. at Duke.

 
 
 
 
 
 

 

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Ag secretary petition

An Iowan is in the running for Agriculture Secretary. Following is a petition from sustainable agriculture advocates:

We’re in the final run for Ag Secy.  Unfortunately, two Monsanto men are near the top of the list.   Below is a link to a simple petition with four candidates that have been endorsed by leading food and farm people.  Could you sign it and send it on in your circles?  Our only hope is many voices together.
http://www.fooddemocracynow.org/#form

 
As a society at large, we have lost the connection between food, water, air and health. Food, our vital resource of nutrition and energy, our basic component of health and vigor, has largely become, a processed, fungible commodity. For the most part, we have lost our regional food systems and economies, and in the last century, we have lost 97% of our food species along with 90% of our farmers. Biological diversity is not an abstract concept. It is life itself: the life of people, nature, and our planet. A high price is being paid with the health of our people and the health of our natural environment. Doing nothing will increase the distance and disconnections between food and health, the disjointing separation between eater and producer, the steady increase in food-related preventable diseases and the continued deterioration of our planet’s greatest treasures; biological diversity and healthy ecosystems. 
We need a Secretary of Agriculture who understands the health and environmental impacts of food production and who will work with both sustainable agriculture and industrial agriculture to create a secure food system based on:
1) Regional food systems
2) Renewable energy based farming systems
3) Human nutritional needs
4) Health to consumers, land and the environment.
Please add your voice to the petition below encouraging President-Elect Obama to consider a Sustainable Choice for our next Secretary of Agriculture.
Atina Diffley, Organic FarmingWorks
 

 

 

 

 


 
From Dave Murphy of  Clear  Lake :
We would like to invite to sign this live petition effort to encourage President-Elect Obama to consider a Sustainable Choice for our next Secretary of Agriculture.
The letter is at: http://www.fooddemocracynow.org/
 
Time is of the essence…
Within the next few days President-Elect Obama will be naming one of the most important posts in his cabinet — our next Secretary of Agriculture. For those of us who care about the environment, sustainability, healthy food, animal welfare and creating  local food systems, NOW IS THE TIME TO ACT. 
A groundswell of grassroots support is needed to encourage President-Elect Obama to nominate a Secretary who will bring sustainable change to the United States Department of Agriculture.
A grassroots effort has taken flight.

We invite you to JOIN US in this grassroots effort by signing this live letter advocating a Sustainable Choice for the next Secretary of Agriculture. 

Current signers to this letter include Rick Bayless, Michael Pollan, Wendell Berry, Marion Nestle, Bill McKibben, Wes Jackson, Catherine Sneed and Alice Waters among many others.

Please join them by once again casting your vote for change by supporting a Sustainable Choice for our next Secretary of Agriculture. 

Help make this type of change possible by signing this letter. Our work has only begun.

PLEASE SIGN this letter at: http://www.fooddemocracynow.org

And then FORWARD to all your friends.

As you may know that this effort has appeared in numerous blogs, including Grist, Salon and in the New York Times online:

http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/12/04/foodies-make-a-pitch-to-obama/?hp

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farmers Market list

(Note: this list is from 2008. Look for the 2009 list on this blog – Cindy)

Following are a sampling of farmers markets that operate in Eastern Iowa. A list of markets across the state is available at the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship Web site at:

http://www.iowaagriculture.gov/iowaProducts.asp

 

Allamakee County

   Allamakee Farmers Market, 4 to 6 p.m. Monday, June 2 through Oct. 6, Allamakee County Fairgrounds, Waukon, contact Teresa Wiemerslage, (563) 568-6345.

   Harpers Ferry, 5 to 7 p.m. Fridays, June 6 to Oct. 3, at Bluffview Park, contact Connie Benedict, (563) 586-2297.

 

Benton County

   Belle Plaine Farmers Market, 5 to 7 p.m. Fridays; June 6 through Sept. 26, 13th Street and Seventh Avenue, west of the Pizza Hut, contact Becky Poduska, (641) 489-2107.

   Urbana Farmers Market, 9 to 11 a.m., Saturdays, May 24 through Oct. 25, Legion Pavilion on Wood Street, contact Eileen Schmidt (319) 443-5620.

    Vinton Farmers Market, 5 to 7 p.m. Thursdays, through Sept. 25; BCHS Railroad Depot, 612 Second Ave., contact Duane Randall at (319) 472-4164.

    Youngville Cafe Farmers Market, 3:30 to 6 p.m. Friday, May 30 through Oct 17; junction of highways 30 and 218, contact Richard Grovert at (319) 223-5465.

 

Cedar County

   Cedar County Farmers Market, 7:30 to 11 a.m. Saturdays, May 17 through Oct. 4 or 11, south side of the county courthouse in Tipton, contact Yvonne Gregory, (563) 946-3551, or Evelyn Walshire (563) 432-6983.

  

 

 

  Mechanicsville Farmers Market, 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays, May 27 through Sept. 30, on Main Street across from the fire station, contact Linda, (563) 432-7756, or Evelyn Walshire, (563) 432-6983.

 

Iowa County

   Amana Farmers Market, 4-8 p.m. Fridays, May 23 through August 29, in midtown Amana. Contact Kristie Wetjen (319) 622-7624.

   Williamsburg Farmers Market, 4 to 7 p.m. Fridays, May 9 through October, at the northeast corner of the downtown park, contact Elaine Wardenburg, (319) 668-1288.

 

Johnson County

   Coralville Farmers Market, 5 to 8 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays, May 5 through Oct. 2, in the parking lot at the Coralville Community Aquatic Center, 1513 Seventh Street, contact Matt Hibbard at (319) 248-1750.

   Iowa City Farmers Market, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays, 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. Saturdays, May 3 through Oct. 29, on lower level of Chauncey Swan parking ramp between Washington and College streets, contact Tammy Neumann at (319) 356-5110.

   Sycamore Mall Farmers Market, 3 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays, May 6 through Oct 28, in the parking lot at the theater end (west end) of the mall, 1600 Sycamore St., Iowa City, contact Candy Norris at (319) 338-6111.

   North Dodge Ace Hardware — no longer has a farmers market.

 

Linn County

   Noelridge Farmers Market in Cedar Rapids, 4 to 6 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, May 2 through Oct. 24, corner of Collins Road and Council Street NE, contact Teresa White at (319) 286-5731.

   City parking lot at Eighth Avenue and Second Street SE in Cedar Rapids – 7:30 a.m. to noon Saturdays except during the Downtown Markets; other days moved to Noelridge site for this season –  4 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays;  May 1 through Oct. 25, contact Teresa White at (319) 286-5731. Closed June 7 and 21, July 5, Aug. 2 and 16, Sept. 6 and Oct. 4 in deference to downtown market.

   Downtown Farmers Market in Cedar Rapids – moved to the area of Greene Square Park for Aug. 2 and subsequent markets due to downtown flooding –  7:30 a.m. to noon, Saturdays, June 7, June 21, July 5, August 2, August 16, September 6 and October 4, on Second Avenue between Third Street SE and First Street SW and on First and Second streets between First Avenue and Third Avenue SE, contact Jill Wilkins at (319) 398-0449.

   Central City Farmers Market, 4-6 p.m. Thursdays, June 5 through Sept. 11, at Courtyard Park on East Elm Street, contact Doris Nordstrom, (319) 361-6621.

   Hiawatha Farmers Market, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays in the Guthridge Park parking lot at 10th Avenue, April 20 through Oct. 26, contact Amy Holecek, (319) 393-1515.

   Marion Farmers Market, 3 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays, 8 to 11:30 a.m. Saturdays; May 3 through Sept. 27, at the East End Shopping Center, 3375 Seventh Ave., contact Pat Carlson at (319) 377-4846, e-mail pcarlson@cityofmarion.org

   Mount Vernon Farmers Market, 4 to 6 p.m. Thursdays, May 8 through Oct. 9, at Mount Vernon Visitors Center, 311 First St. W, contact David Miller, (319) 895-0177.

   Springville Farmers Market, 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays, June 3 through Aug. 26, at Cox Lake Pavilion, contact market manager Lena Gilbert, (319) 854-7097 or Springville Economic Development Corp., (319) 854-7016.

 

Tama County

   Toledo Farmers Market, 5 to 7 p.m., Fridays, May 2 through Oct. 31, held on the east side of the court house square, contact Dawn Kupka, (641) 484-2177.

   Traer Farmers Market, 4 to 6 p.m., Wednesdays, May 7 through Oct. 29, at the junction of highways 8 and 63 in Traer, contact Marlus Svoboda at (319) 479-2279.

 

Washington County

   Washington Farmers Market, 5 to 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, May 8 through Oct. 23, at Downtown Central Park at Washington Street and Iowa Avenue; contact Bob Shepherd at (319) 653-4888.

 

Winneshiek County

   Winneshiek Farmers Market, 3 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays, 8 to 11 a.m. Saturdays; May 3 through Oct. 29; at the Municipal parking lot at Heivly Street and Claiborne Drive in Decorah; contact Cindy Ballard at (563) 382-6385.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

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