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ISU Extension and Outreach
ISU Extension and Outreach reliable information about agriculture, 4H programs, food and nutrition, and family sciences. ISU Extension and Outreach has an office in Muscatine.

Muscatine Living

By Ann Staudt, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach

The “Whole Farm Conservation Best Practices Manual.” Photo courtesy Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

AMES, Iowa – The “Whole Farm Conservation Best Practices Manual” has been expanded to make it available free-of-charge for download or in hard copy. This second edition expands the range of practices and decision guides contained in the manual and incorporates feedback from users who have employed the manual since 2020.

The updates were made by the Conservation Learning Group, a think tank based at Iowa State University Extension and Outreach and dedicated to addressing conservation and environmental challenges.

“The range and variability of conservation practices is broad,” said Matt Helmers, Iowa State professor and director of the Iowa Nutrient Research Center: “We knew when we released the first edition of the manual that it would continue to evolve and expand, but we wanted to get it into the hands of people who needed actionable advice as quickly as possible. The new edition is the next step that incorporates much of the tremendous feedback and input we have received from farmers, landowners, and conservation professionals who have used the first edition of the manual for research, education, and practical assessments of which practices fit their land and goals.”

The manual includes detailed information about each conservation practice and includes step-by-step decision worksheets to aid in determining the best practice(s) to meet the goals of the farmer or landowner.

Additional conservation practices in the new release include:

  • Multipurpose oxbows.
  • Windbreaks.
  • Riparian forest buffers.
  • Bottomland timber establishment.

Sections covering practices such as cover crops, no-till, terraces, ponds, water, and sediment control basins and grassed waterways also include expanded, detailed information. In addition, each conservation practice profiled in the manual is covered in detail regarding fit for land type, conservation goals such as reduction in nitrogen-N or phosphorus-P, soil health, and wildlife habitat.

Resources and practice information specifically targeted toward agricultural consultants and professionals have been moved out of the manual and established online. This will facilitate access by these individuals while keeping the farmer- and landowner-focused manual streamlined and most effective.

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 farm producer. The manual is available for free download or in hard copy from the Iowa State Extension Store.

The online “Addendum: Decision Tools for Conservation Professionals,” is available for free download from the Conservation Learning Group website.

This manual is a joint publication of Iowa State University and the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, supported by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under No. 6000004181.

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