Tuesday, November 14, 2006

An Interactive Learning Approach for Promoting Conservation Systems in Iowa.

Mahdi Al-Kaisi1, Mark Licht2, H. Mark Hanna2, Matthew Helmers2, Michael Duffy2, and Jacqueline Comito2. (1) Iowa State University, Iowa State University, 1310 Sand Cherry Lane, Huxley, IA 50124-8103, (2) Iowa State Univ, 2104 Agronomy Hall, Ames, IA 50011-1010

In response to the challenges facing the adoption of conservation systems in Iowa, a comprehensive and unique approach needs to be used. The Iowa Learning Farm was implemented in 2005 utilizing an interactive learning approach for promoting conservation systems in Iowa. This approach integrates agronomic, economic and community aspects in increasing awareness and adoption of conservation systems and ethics. The primary goal of the Iowa Learning Farm is to involve producers in identifying natural resource problems by utilizing planning processes to implement conservation systems and promote site specific conservation system adoption. The mechanism to execute this concept is through producers conducting on-farm demonstrations; along with educational program planning that addresses the use of conservation systems. The Iowa Learning Farm incorporates a multifaceted outreach and education plan of work which includes field trainings, printed and electronic media activities, regional meetings, and a mobile conservation rainfall simulation demonstration. To promote suitable conservation practices the state was divided into five regions based on soil and topography. In each region on-farm demonstrations and other activities are determined locally by producers and other local partners. The on-farm demonstrations are utilized to illustrate conservation systems, but also generate data for an agronomic and economic evaluation based on individual on-farm decisions. The agronomic and economic impacts of conservation systems will be evaluated at the end of a five-year period. Community involvement through a statewide survey and regional focus groups are being utilized to evaluate the decision making process and build conservation stewardship and ethics. Additionally, the focus group discussions are used to modify the educational delivery approach to better meet changing needs.