USDA Awards Grants to ISU, Iowa Soybean & Corn Growers Associations

(Radio Iowa) Iowa State University is getting a more than half a million dollar grant from the USDA to support research focused on planting two crops in the same field, like soybeans and winter wheat. It’s called relay intercropping and researchers are assessing how it impacts soil health and water quality in the area. U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack says large commercial operations are doing well financially and the goal is to find ways to help small and mid-sized farms stay afloat.

“Let’s figure out a way in which as you embrace sustainable practices that you benefit from those sustainable practices with increased productivity, with increased value,” Vilsack said. The ISU project will incorporate winter wheat or rye in corn and soybean fields on three university research farms and six other independent farms.

“An exciting opportunity for farmers to see the benefit of potentially harvesting three crops in two years,” Vilsack says, “as opposed to just two crops.” The Iowa Soybean and Iowa Corn Growers Associations will get nearly 900-thousand dollars from the USDA to conduct trials of how conservation practices and crop genetics impact yields.

“It’s tough to ask farmers to do this because oftentimes is requires an expenditure, an investment up front and it’s important for farmers to be able to see the benefit of that investment before we ask them to essentially spend their own resources,” Vilsack says, “so the OnFarm program really provides additional resources to make it a little bit easier for farmers to really embrace innovation in conservation.” Vilsack made his comments Thursday afternoon during a news conference in Ames.