Agriculture

Prairie Strips

Across the street from the Bett’s rental house in our Agriculture Zone sits our ISU prairie strips project. Research conducted in these strips reflected that they are functional wildlife habitats with nine reptiles and amphibians inhabiting the strips. These species include tiger salamanders, plains garter snake, prairie skink, and western fox snakes. Six mammals have been recorded using the strips, including the Least shrew. 26 species of birds were also recorded.

Cover Crops
Cover Crops

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No-Till Farming
No-Till Farming

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Whiterock Land
Whiterock Land

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Cover Crops
Cover Crops

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Pale Purple Coneflower
Pale Purple Coneflower

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Smooth Blue Aster
Smooth Blue Aster

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Prairie Strip
Prairie Strip

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Pale Purple Coneflower
Pale Purple Coneflower

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Cover Crops

Whiterock Conservancy began using cover crops in 2008 as a participant in a Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI) research program. Since 2008, Whiterock has continued to scale up cover crop use and diversified cover crop seeding to better utilize nutrients from lower in the soil column. We continue to expand the program with the overarching goal of improving soil health to sustain yields into the future. Water quality is another benefit of cover crops and as proponents of more resilient and diverse waterways, we enjoy the contribution we are making to improve the health of Iowa’s waterways. We continue to seek out new cover crop mixes and seeding methods to meet our goals of minimizing soil erosion, increasing microbial activity, increasing water infiltration, and increasing nutrient retention on-field.

Proud Caretaker of No-Till Land!

Whiterock maximizes cost savings by making choices that conserve soil and keep money in our pockets rather than watching it wash or blow away. We have learned from experience the many benefits of not tilling the land.

Benefits:

  • Leaves biomass behind, providing extra protection until cover crops have the opportunity to sprout and establish roots

  • Less field time, which reduces soil compaction and fuel use and allows extra time to get other projects done

  • Builds less compacted, better drained, fit soils that gives crops the nutrients they need while keeping excess fertilizer from reaching the Middle Raccoon River

  • Lowers soil loss from wind erosion

  • Increases revenue by letting cattle eat the left over stalks or cover crops

    • Free fertilizer without chemicals

Cattle on the Land
Cattle on the Land

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Cattle Grazing
Cattle Grazing

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Grazed Land
Grazed Land

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Cattle on the Land
Cattle on the Land

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No-Till Farmland
No-Till Farmland

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Till Free Practices
Till Free Practices

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No-Till Farmland
No-Till Farmland

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Livestock on the Farm

Whiterock understands the importance of balancing plants and animals to have functioning ecosystems on all of our land and biological diversity. An agriculture ecosystem looks very different than a native prairie, savanna, or wetland ecosystem but they all require healthy diversity.

By alternating only between corn and beans, there are many missed opportunities to diversify the landscape. Plant species can be diversified by having additional crops included in the rotation, including diversified native prairie plantings for waterways and buffer strips compared to a monoculture, and utilizing various cover crops. Ecosystems also need animals. Ungulates such as bison create diversity in the prairies, while cows create diversity in the farm fields.

Benefits of livestock on the farm:

  • Pasture is a great alternative to row crop, especially for those acres that should not be row cropped because of erosion, drown out acres, or low nutrient values

  • Pasture provides contiguous habitat and structure to attract various wildlife species

  • Livestock provide organic nutrient cycling when cattle are used on either stalk or cover crop feeding