Conservation Best Practices Manual Available for Free Download

March 24, 2020

AMES, Iowa – Conservation Learning Group, a think tank based at Iowa State University Extension and Outreach and dedicated to addressing conservation and environmental challenges, has published the Whole Farm Conservation Best Practices Manual to aid farmers in selecting conservation measures appropriate for their farms.

The manual was developed in cooperation with the Iowa Soybean Association, Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance and Practical Farmers of Iowa, and with the support and input from multiple local, state and federal organizations.

Designed primarily for farmers just starting out through three years of adopting conservation practices, the manual provides a broad range of information that could be beneficial to any producer. The manual is available for free download or in hard copy from the ISU Extension Store.

Covering in-field topics including tillage management, cover crops and diverse rotations, and edge-of-field practices such as wetlands, bioreactors, saturated buffers, controlled drainage and prairie strips, the manual provides detailed information regarding implementation and expected outcomes.

In addition, it includes comprehensive graphical decision tools to aid farmers in determining the best approaches for each area on their farm.

“A primary goal in producing this manual is to help farmers succeed with conservation practices based on the vast array of ongoing research and field studies conducted at Iowa State and beyond,” said Mark Licht, assistant professor and extension cropping systems specialist at Iowa State and CLG member. “We’ve heard from farmers across the state that sometimes it’s difficult to navigate discrepancies between different research reports and recommendations regarding conservation and water quality practices. With this manual, we’ve pulled together the most important parts from the rich sets of research on cover crops and other conservation efforts in Iowa and presented them using consistent language in an easy-to-use graphical format.”

The manual was developed based on numerous meetings and working groups among stakeholders, researchers, agency representatives and communications specialists, who worked together to provide a comprehensive resource for farmers. The content was also presented to farmers at multiple events, prior to public release, to gather feedback on usability and the graphical decision tools included.

“This manual will be an excellent tool for our conservation planners to utilize as they work with farmers to adopt these management practices,” said Kevin Kuhn, resource conservationist for the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service. “I was involved in the working groups which discussed the best strategies for farmers who are new to these practices. It’s our hope with this advice that they will be successful early in the adoption of these practices both agronomically and from a conservation standpoint.”

Conservation Learning Group will continue to evaluate responses to the manual and update it with emerging information and data from research projects.

“This is not meant to be a static guide,” Licht said. “As our experiences and knowledge base grow, we will continue to communicate with producers and provide the best advice we can to maximize their successes with conservation practices.”

This manual is a joint publication of Iowa State University and USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, supported by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under number 6000004181.

Conservation Learning Group is a collaborative team established to advance training, outreach, and research across land uses and production systems to increase overall sustainability of agricultural and natural systems for multiple generations to come. CLG draws on experts in various disciplines to deliver engaging science-based outreach to farmers, agricultural advisers, landowners, decision makers, youth and communities. To learn more about Conservation Learning Group visit www.ConservationLearningGroup.org