Steinhart Teaches at Conference for Pakistan and Afghanistan Extension Workers PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by Joy Venhorst   
Monday, 18 July 2011 12:53

AMES, Iowa -- Terry Steinhart, Iowa State University Extension livestock specialist, recently spent a week at the University of Agriculture Faisalabad (UAF), Pakistan. He was a member of the U.S. team training Pakistan and Afghanistan extension workers. Steinhart said extension workers in the three countries share some similarities, such as degree of training and expertise in a subject matter and a desire to help farmers. However, there are many differences, and the U.S. model can contribute to strengthening the network and skills among Pakistan and Afghanistan extension workers.

“During training session introductions, an Afghan extension worker of 30 years said, ‘I love my farmers,’ which is a universal sentiment among extension specialists,” Steinhart said.

Steinhart was one of four U.S. extension trainers at the “Strengthening Extension Skills of Young Professionals in Afghanistan and Pakistan” workshop. Joining him were Louise Ferguson, University California-Davis; Trish Steinhilber, University of Maryland; and Kevin Murphy, Washington State University.

“Extension systems outside the U.S. Extension systems generally do not have an affiliation with their universities. Instead they are government employees, and thus they do not have an immediate connection to the applied research, as we do in the U.S.,” said Mary Holz-Clause, ISU Extension and Outreach associate vice president and project coordinator.

The June 2011 workshop was the first of three in-region workshops planned by the consortium of land-grant universities, which includes University of California, Davis, Washington State University, University of Maryland, Purdue University and Iowa State University, as part of the Af-Pak Trilateral, a project funded by a USDA Foreign Agricultural Service grant.

“Transportation is slow and limited in the two countries. They have no cell phones and limited funding. Extension workers have had no connection to each other or to a university and its research,” said Steinhart. “But they do have Internet access and are proficient using computers.”

This international training gave the 36 extension workers and university personnel their first chance to meet, share experiences and begin building networks. During conference opening remarks, UAF Vice Chancellor Professor Dr. Iqrar Ahmed Khan said the two countries are sides of the same coin, because they share values, religion and culture. They face common challenges of food security and terrorism, and he stressed the need to produce quality research and transmit the knowledge into goods and services. There is great need for strengthening the skills of extension workers.

During conference workshops, the U.S team created a general framework intended to support participants as they implement extension programming that incorporates technical knowledge. U.S. team lectures and demonstrations dealt with adult learning techniques, examples of programming such as workshops, field demonstrations and recruiting early adapters to run side-by-side plots, and development of fact sheets that are suited for the education level of the farmers. “While they are very familiar with Internet, they needed help identifying reliable information on the Internet and knowing how to search for information based on research,” Steinhart said. “They will be able to build on the training we provided through connections they made at the conference with university personnel and the other extension workers. Networking will be vital to their success.”

The second of three workshops planned for Ministry Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (Afghanistan) and the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock (Pakistan) extension workers as part of the project is scheduled for September 2011.


Second Group of Iowa Farmer Volunteers Meets with Ugandan Farmers PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by Joy Venhorst   
Monday, 18 July 2011 12:50

AMES, Iowa – A second group of Iowa women traveled to Uganda as part of the rural development program, Bridging the Gap: Increasing Competitiveness of Ugandan Women Farmers in the Marketplace. This farmer-to-farmer program connects Iowa farmers with eight groups of women farmers in the Kamuli District of Uganda.

The yearlong project is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Iowa State University’s Global Extension Program has partnered with a Ugandan nonprofit organization, Volunteer Efforts for Developing Concerns (VEDCO), to provide production and marketing expertise to Ugandan farmers. Iowa State University’s Center for Sustainable Rural Livelihoods (CSRL) and VEDCO have been providing outreach and education in the district since 2004. As a result, many of the area Ugandan farm families are now poised to increase crop diversity, as well as increase grain yields and quality for sale to commercial markets.

The project focuses on improving maize (corn) grain quality and collaborative or group marketing of the grain. In addition, soybeans are being introduced as a food and as a cash crop. The Iowa volunteers are training Ugandan farmers to keep written farm business records.

The first group of Iowa farmers traveled to the Kamuli District in March. In late May, farmers Jennifer Steffen and Jenny Thomas and Mercy Kabahuma, a graduate student in agronomy at Iowa State, visited the district to verify progress toward the project’s objectives and to continue training the farmer groups. The women spent six days with the groups of farmers and each brought unique experiences to the group’s visit in the Kamuli District.

Kabahuma grew up in the city of Kampala, Uganda. In 2008 as an undergraduate, she interned with a CSRL service-learning program, coordinated by Iowa State University in the Kamuli District, and became familiar with the area farmers. When she learned of Bridging the Gap, she couldn’t wait to return. She’s noticed some changes since then.

“There’s a huge difference from when I left and when I returned this year. I noticed that most of the women have grown into larger-scale producers and they are thinking bigger now and producing for market,” Kabahuma said.

The Iowa volunteers started their trip investigating potential maize markets. They toured a local maize mill in Kamuli and a local warehouse where grain can be stored and the quality maintained for future sales. They noted both good and poor quality maize and other local grains. The mill owner expressed interest in receiving high quality maize from the local women farmers and offered to pay them a premium. This price difference based on quality was only recently made available to farmers.

Later that day, the Iowans met up with the eight women farmer group leaders and traveled four hours to Agroways, a grain warehouse in Jinja. The warehouse is similar, though smaller, to the grain elevators in Iowa. At this potential marketing outlet, the Ugandan farmers were introduced to East African Grain Standards and the process and fees required to sell or store their maize for later sales. The farmers are able to secure loans on stored grain at this facility, though most do not have a bank account that would allow them to do so.

During the majority of the trip, the Iowa volunteers met with the farmer groups to discuss post-harvest handling of the grain and joint marketing, monitor individuals’ farm record books and evaluate their new soybean plantings.

The Ugandan farmers impressed Steffen, a farmer from southeast Iowa. “The women farmers in the Kamuli District are industrious, hardworking and resilient. They are wonderful communicators and willing to learn new, improved and economically advantageous methods of farming that have the potential to improve their livelihoods,” Steffen said.

One group in particular, led by farmer Rose Mbiira, shows great potential, said ISU Extension Value Added Agriculture Specialist Margaret Smith, co-director of the Bridging the Gap project. While meeting and working with Mbiira’s group, the Iowa volunteers readily observed these women’s increasing business savvy, but were equally impressed by the laughter and joy shared among the group members. Smith hopes to begin joint marketing efforts with Mbiira’s group.

The volunteers reported two other groups that also appear to be ready for joint marketing, Smith added. Because quality of maize varies from farm to farm, the Bridging the Gap project will begin with group trucking. Each farmer will bag and weigh her crops on the farm, and then transport and sell as a group to one of the markets investigated during this work trip.

“In Iowa, we have an amazing system in place to market our crops. Our Iowa farmers’ experiences allow them to identify the gaps in the Ugandan marketing system and help identify steps for improving local farmers’ maize grain quality and marketing. The ultimate goal is to improve profitability and bring more money to the household,” said Smith. “This farm-based technology and information transfer is a wonderful benefit to this program.”

Thomas has been in the agriculture and livestock industry for more than 30 years. She prepared for her first trip to Africa by watching films and reading books on the culture.

“I was prepared for large cultural differences. Rural Ugandan families live very simply, with no running water, electricity, cars, or mechanized farm equipment. What struck me most, though, were the similarities between our cultures. I found that we have the same basic challenges, to adapt our production systems and our lives to changing circumstances so that we can produce enough to meet the needs of our families. They are interested in developing cash-generating enterprises, because they need to pay for educational and growing family expenses,” observed Thomas. “Elementary and secondary education is subsidized by the Ugandan government, but not completely free. These new and expanded enterprises are where they hope to use our expertise. With two students in college, I can relate to the challenge of providing for my family.”

“In Uganda, women are in charge of the household by growing and preparing food for the family and looking after everyone at home,” said Kabahuma. “By empowering the women and making them think of production for market in addition to feeding their families, more money will come in to the family and more kids will go to school. This project is going to have a big impact with cooperating farmers in the Kamuli District.”

The next group of Iowa women farmers is scheduled to arrive in Uganda on Aug. 21. They will meet with both farmers and VEDCO administrators to continue helping improve on-site farm production, crop quality and farm business record keeping in the Kamuli District.

For more information, contact Margaret Smith at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


Yard and Garden: Japanese Beetles PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by Joy Venhorst   
Monday, 18 July 2011 12:39

As Japanese beetles are spreading throughout Iowa and populations are increasing, more and more gardeners are dealing with these very hungry garden pests. Japanese beetle adults feed on a wide variety of plants. Iowa State University Extension specialists answer questions concerning these difficult to control pests. To have additional questions answered, contact the experts at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or call 515-294-3108.

What are the Japanese beetle’s favorite food plants?

Adult Japanese beetles have been documented to feed on the foliage, flowers and fruits of more than 300 different plants. Their top favorites are grape, cherry, apple, rose, raspberry and linden. A link to a list of the Japanese beetle’s most- and least-favored woody plants can be found at the following website:

Can Japanese beetles be effectively controlled by using traps?

In a word, no. Several kinds of traps are available that use a floral scent and/or sex attractant to lure beetles into a net, jar or bag where the beetles can be contained till disposed of. In heavily-infested areas, traps may catch hundreds or thousands of beetles in the course of the summer. Unfortunately, this is a small percentage of the beetles in the area and makes no lasting impact on the beetle population or on the plant damage experienced.

The use of traps is not recommended. Research conducted in Kentucky and elsewhere found the traps do not control moderate to heavy infestations. The traps may attract more beetles than they catch and actually add more beetles to the yard than would occur otherwise.

In isolated locations far away from other Japanese beetle infestations, and in very lightly-infested areas, trapping may provide some benefit. Otherwise, traps will not make a difference.

Will treating my lawn for white grubs reduce the population of Japanese beetles on my plants next summer?

It would be nice if life could be that simple, but the relatively small area you can treat (compared to the grassy sites in the surrounding area) will not have any impact on the following year’s adult population. Japanese beetle adults are very strong and capable fliers and may travel long distances from where they developed as larvae in fence rows, roadside ditches and other grass sites, to where they are feeding. You are likely to have beetles next summer whether you treat the grub stage in your lawn or not. Controlling one life stage does not preclude potential problems with the other.

This does not mean you should not treat the turfgrass. If desired, high value turf can be protected from the root-feeding larvae by treating the soil with a preventive insecticide in a timely fashion and according to label directions. Most of the available insecticides must be applied before mid-August to be effective as preventive treatments. Treating for grubs will protect the turfgrass. It will not prevent beetles from feeding in your landscape the following year.

What is the life cycle of the Japanese beetle?

In Iowa, adult beetles emerge in mid-June through July. Japanese beetles are similar to other Junebugs in appearance and 3/8 inch long and 1/4 inch wide. The head and thorax are shiny metallic green and the wing covers are coppery red. A distinguishing feature of the beetles is five tufts of white hairs on each side of the abdomen.

Japanese beetle larvae are typical white grubs. The larvae are in the soil from August until June where they feed on plant roots (especially turfgrass) and organic matter. The grubs are C-shaped and approximately 1.25 inches long when full grown.

Japanese beetles are defoliating my linden tree. Will they kill it?

Japanese beetles feed on more than 300 different plants. However, lindens are one of their favorites. Defoliation of well established, healthy lindens (and other trees) is usually not fatal. Defoliation is most harmful to recently planted trees (those planted in the last two to three years) and trees in poor health.

The foliage of recently planted and high-value trees can be protected with a soil-drench application of a systemic insecticide, such as imidacloprid (Bayer Advanced Tree and Shrub Insect Control and other products). To be effective, treatments must be made several weeks ahead of beetle emergence.



Iowa Learning Farms’ July Webinar Focuses on Growing Miscanthus for Biofuel Energy PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by Joy Venhorst   
Monday, 18 July 2011 12:18

AMES, Iowa — The Iowa Learning Farms’ (ILF) June webinar, to be held Wednesday, July 20, at noon, will feature Emily Heaton, who will present “Giant Miscanthus and other perennial energy crops.” The webinar is part of a series, hosted by ILF, held on the third Wednesday of each month. The webinars are held over the noon hour through Adobe Connect. All that is needed to participate is a computer with Internet access.

Emily Heaton is an assistant professor of agronomy at Iowa State University, focusing on biomass crop production and physiology. While pursuing her doctorate in crop sciences at the University of Illinois, she pioneered and led research comparing the biomass production of Miscanthus and switchgrass in the U.S., research that indicated Miscanthus could produce 250 percent more ethanol than corn, without requiring additional land. Heaton joined Iowa State from Ceres, a plant genetics company in California that specializes in biomass crop breeding for fuel. At Iowa State, Heaton focuses on best management practices for perennial energy crops, with particular emphasis on Miscanthus and switchgrass.

To connect to the webinar, go to: Heaton will be able to answer questions from webinar “attendees” via the Adobe Connect chat box. The ILF website homepage contains links for archived webinars from previous months:

Upcoming webinars include: ISU Agronomy professor Richard Cruse will discuss the report “Losing Ground” in August; Drake University Agricultural Law Center fellow Edward Cox will present information on the land tenure project with the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture in September. Please contact ILF with other topic ideas for future webinar sessions.


Iowa Learning Farms Hosts July 20 Field Day at Smeltzer Trust Farm PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by Joy Venhorst   
Monday, 18 July 2011 12:16

AMES, Iowa — Iowa Learning Farms (ILF) will sponsor a strip-tillage and cover crop management field day at the Ann Smeltzer Charitable Trust Farm, south of Otho in Webster County, on Wednesday, July 20, from 6-8 p.m. The field day is free, includes a complimentary dinner and the public is invited to attend.

The field day will focus on strip-tillage and cover crop management. Attendees can view in-field demonstrations of mole knife and dual-coulter style strip-till equipment and discuss strip-till management with Gary and Dave Nelson. The Nelson father and son team manage the Smeltzer Farm row crop acres as part of their family farm operation. Strip-tillage marries the best aspects of conventional tillage with the benefits of no-till. Before planting (fall post-harvest, or spring pre-plant) a strip-tillage implement creates strips of tilled soil. Surface residue is left undisturbed between the tilled strips. Corn or soybeans are planted into the tilled soil strips, which warm and dry faster than the rest of the field. This practice offers better water infiltration, improved soil structure, and potential for reduced fuel, machinery and other crop input costs.

Other field day speakers include Sarah Carlson, research and policy director with Practical Farmers of Iowa, who will discuss fall-seeded cereal grain cover crop management and will highlight the Smeltzer Farm demonstration site of corn planted into fall 2010 aerial-seeded winter rye cover crop. Laura Christianson, Ph.D. candidate in the Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering department at Iowa State University, will discuss wood chip bioreactors and other techniques to limit nitrate transport to water bodies. A denitrifying bioreactor is one of many soil and water quality-enhancing features of the Smeltzer Farm.

Bring the family
Visitors of all ages can learn something about Iowa agriculture at the Smeltzer Farm. Families are encouraged to come to the field day to see the Conservation Station. The Conservation Station’s rainfall simulator shows the effects of rain on several different surface scenarios and subsurface drainage including highly disturbed land, no-till and residue-covered surfaces, buffers and permeable pavement. The learning lab portion of the Conservation Station includes displays and activities highlighting why soil and water quality are important to everyone. Kids can become members of the “conservation pack” by participating in the Conservation Station activities.

The Smeltzer Farm is a unique experience as it contains examples of almost every conservation practice that can be put in place. The Ann Smeltzer Charitable Trust board oversees the management of the farm and works to develop the farm that Miss Smeltzer envisioned — a learning environment for conservation practices and environmental issues.

Farmers and non-farmers can learn from seeing the row crop demonstration plots, stream bank restoration, waterways and buffers that have been installed on the farm. Webster County Conservation Naturalist Karen Hansen will be at the field day to show families some of the farm features, with the help of Sam Adams, the new Natural Resources Conservation Service District Conservationist for Webster County.

The Smeltzer Trust Farm is located on County Road P59 (Nelson Avenue), 2.5 miles south of Otho, on the east side of the road.


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