By Dan Case, Project Coordinator, IDALS-DSCWQ
Twenty-one one was a challenging year in the Walnut Creek Watershed. The beginning brought big hopes and progress with the formation of an advisory board and the hiring of a new Education and Outreach Coordinator Emily. For a few months good progress was made spreading the word of all the wonderful things producers are doing in the watershed. Covid managed to put a big monkey wrench into this however, not allowing us to have public meetings or meet producers as much as we wanted. Emily moved on to bigger and better things half-way through the year and now we are starting over. Hopefully we will have an Education and Outreach Coordinator rehired when things go back to normal…. fingers crossed.
Covid did not however hinder our cover crop adoption and growth. This year we installed just shy of 20,000 acres of cover crops across the watershed! Mother nature was extremely generous with our warm fall and most fields saw extremely good growth! The oats did particularly well. Aerially applying oats can be hit or miss in the fall but this year we hit the bullseye! As always please plan ahead for spring termination of your rye! If you would like advice on how to manage your cover crop, please don’t be afraid to contact your local agronomist! Planting soybeans into tall rye is fairly easy and we suggest planting green if you can. This will lessen your chances of decaying rye grass binding and tangling things up on your planter. If you are planting corn into rye that is a whole different story however! Please don’t plant your corn until that rye is dead and gone. Or put a very, VERY generous amount of starter fertilizer down when planting! This requires a lot of planning ahead and playing the weather to make this a success….so don’t get caught doing the wrong thing. And if you don’t have time, next year consider an oat cover crop!
We still have MRBI EQIP money for those wanting to install terraces in the original watershed area(blue on map) of Whipple, Crabapple, and Climax sub-watersheds of Walnut Creek. Please sign an application in your local office by April 1st to be considered for this year’s funding or by October 1st to be considered for next year. In 2021 we installed 80,000 feet in the watershed. Those in Indian Creek can also sign up for regular EQIP or state cost share! The picture below shows one of our MRBI terrace jobs built on an oat cover crop!
We still have SF512 money for ponds. We are targeting drainage areas of 80-120 acres that are primarily in ag production with tile outlets. We have signed up several outside of the watershed but only one in! If you have ever dreamed of having your own fishing hole then there will NEVER be a better deal! Your cost is only $7,500! Contact me to evaluate your site!
A big push is being made statewide to promote and install other nutrient reducing practices such as saturated buffers, bioreactors, and wetlands. Bioreactors can be installed on the end of any tile line as long as the line is not hooked to surface water intakes. Saturated buffers also can not be hooked to intakes but need to be along an existing or new filter strip and be along a ditch less than eight feet in depth. Saturated buffers also work in conjunction with drainage water management and allow the producer to manage the water level under the surface of their field for crop production, which can be a really nice tool in the hot months of the summer! If anyone is interested in any of these practices the State of Iowa has funds to pay for most, if not all, of the practice. Just contact me to see if your site has potential.
As always, I am really looking forward to seeing all the green fields this spring! I hope everyone gets along really well with their cover crops and if anyone has questions, please don’t be afraid to ask! And while you’re spraying or planting into your cover crop start thinking about next year! Its never too early to start planning.