It’s been a very cold winter so far in Iowa. Just last week we had temperatures of -20 and wind chills of -50. I visited the Richland Research Farm today to check on snow cover which can help insulate plants from the extreme cold we are experiencing. Even though we have had about 14” of snow in the past month, there was very little clinging to the flat wind-swept ground in Richland. The white mustard cover crop we planted last fall has winter-killed as planned. The turf and forage plants seeded last May are brown and dormant, waiting for warmer days. In September we planted another round of turf and forage plots. Unfortunately, it was a very dry early fall so the plots that did come up have very small, vulnerable plants. It will be interesting to see what survived come Spring.
Of particular interest are the Frosty Berseem Clover and Fixation Balansa Clover plots. This very cold weather will tell us a lot about just how cold tolerant these new varieties are. We have a long way to go until Spring weather arrives but I’m counting the days until I can get my hands dirty in Richland again.
Winter is also a time for Conferences and indoor learning opportunities. In December we exhibited at the ASTA Corn, Soybean and Sorghum meeting in Chicago. A lot was learned about opportunities to expand the adoption of cover crops by corn and soybean farmers in the Midwest. Next up is the National No-Till Conference in Springfield, IL followed by the Practical Farmers of Iowa conference and the No-Till on the Plains Conference in Kansas. These conferences are a great opportunity for us to learn about new research in the cover crop arena and network with farmers, researchers, and government leaders in the field of conservation and cover crops.