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Upper Iowa University soil and water conservation class sees conservation farming practices in action

The UIU ES220-Soil & Water Conservation class traveled to Dick Jensen’s farm near Elgin, Iowa, where they worked hands-on with Jensen, district conservationists and NRCS office studying the effects of conservation farming practices vs. conventional farming practices. The class is taught by Dr. Jennifer Stoffel, Upper Iowa University assistant professor of biology.

Kneeling in the grass and dirt, ES 220 students gather around a trench dug next to a field of soybeans on the Dick Jensen farm near Elgin, Iowa. The soil pit reveals many secrets. The students marvel at the soil horizon, the layers of dirt influenced by management practices. For Jensen, who switched from conventional farming to no-till over 20 years ago, what they see in the soil pit is a good thing. His conservation efforts include sediment retention structures, terraces, ponds, restored prairie, tree plantings, an apiary, cover crops and waterway management.

Upper Iowa University conservation management, environmental science, and agricultural business students have been putting into practice what they discuss in the classroom through such partnerships with farmers like Jensen and the local NRCS office. This special collaboration led to one senior projects at the Jensen farm with UIU seniors Danny Zych from Fridley, Minn., and an internship for Logan Broghammer from Oxford, Iowa.

During the recent field trip, the ES 220 class looked at water infiltration in a no-till field and a re-established prairie. Employing a penetrometer, they looked for layers of compaction in the soil, and learned how management practices directly influence soil structure.

“Collaborations with farmers like Jensen and the NRCS office provide an enriched learning experience for our students,” said Dr. Jennifer Stoffel, assistant professor of biology. “We’re all working together to teach people – the next generation of farmers, conservation professionals and ag-business leaders, and the community – the same thing. Soil conservation is important for our future generations.”

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