Working Alternatives to Re-cropping Marginal Lands

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2006: $100,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2010
Region: North Central
State: Iowa
Project Coordinator:
Chris Nelson
Southern Iowa Forage & Livestock Committee
Melissa Maynes
Southern Iowa Forage & Livestock

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Animals: bovine


  • Production Systems: integrated crop and livestock systems


    The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Research and Demonstration Project and farm utilized a student Grazing Intern, three grazing management systems and styles, constructed a pond water access site, and provided on-site adult education field days and group tours. They displayed success in fall calving operations, fall pasture weaning of spring calves, and successful demonstration of annual grass utilization for renovation of excessive fescue pastures. Rotational grazing management supplied ample forage including cool and warm season grasses. Rural water and grazing studies and patch-burn grazing studies were initiated.

    2009 included the private sale of the research farm site and the auctioning of all the fencing, cattle management and water system equipment from the CRP Farm Project northeast of Corning.To make use of these funds, a grant program has been designed. The program will provide money to producers or groups for programs, projects, and demonstrations which further The Southern Iowa Forage and Livestock Committee’s (SIFLC) mission.

    The committee also completed a publication entitled “Maximizing Profitability on Highly Erodible Land in Iowa.” It uses the grazing data collected at the Adams County CRP Research and Demonstration Farm and compares six options for land currently in CRP. With high grain prices, going back to row-crops on this land can look like a good option. When the costs of erosion are also considered, however, the best options, even with no-till row crops, shift to keeping this land in grass. Thanks to the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture for cooperating on this project.


    This project was the “first in the nation project” to receive permission from the USDA to demonstrate economically feasible and environmentally sound agricultural production on land currently enrolled in CRP. The project is an interagency, cooperative effort and has received national recognition for its efforts.

    The mission of this project was to reduce the conversion of existing private agricultural grassland to row crop production. The project promoted sustainable livestock grazing to a diverse group of owners and producers. Targeted was highly erodible land (HEL) expiring from the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). This project included 11 different outcomes. All outcomes promoted grassland conservation. Outcomes were accomplished through sponsoring on and off-site producer field days, constructing a conservation water site demonstration, promoting grassland wildlife, providing a demonstration facility, providing a grazing school, and developing an Extension grazing bulletin on grazing profitability analysis plus an informational grazing brochure.

    A unique key SIFLC input of this project was the established CRP Farm, and its rotational-grazing demonstrations, producing profitable livestock in a sustainable and well documented manner. This proposal combined the CRP Demonstration Farm facility with SIFLC’s multi-partner structure, the educational resources of experienced cattlemen, Iowa State University Extension researchers, specialists, and local agents, and NRCS experts. The Iowa State University research farm system has reduced their grassland field activities and staff greatly in recent years. That made the SIFLC cooperative demonstration farm more valuable and this project allowed us to continue as a hands-on resource for producers and landowners statewide, but particularly, in southern Iowa and northern Missouri. Results of the demonstrations and research were published in the Iowa State University research reports and the yearly SIFLC Annual Report.

    The Southern Iowa Forage and Livestock Committee (SIFLC) experienced major change in 2008 with the death of the CRP project farm owner, Juanita Cooley. Her death precipitated listing the 480 acre CRP farm for sale. The year’s demonstration activities at the farm proceeded pretty much as normal. However, by the end of the year, despite the hope of the committee that demonstration efforts would continue with a new owner, it became clear that the likelihood of that happening was very slim. Consequently, in October, the committee made the decision to remove all pasture fence and water systems and end demonstration activities at the “CRP Farm”. The committee voted unanimously to continue their mission of promoting environmentally sound and economically feasible management on highly erodible land. The difference is that these demonstrations and field days were held on producer farms rather than on the CRP Farm NE of Corning.

    Project objectives:

    • Adult Forage Field Day events planned - 2 per year

      Pond Water Limited Access Development- 1 scheduled

      Grazing Intern employment - 1 per year

      Collection of Data from CRP Farm demonstrations - Annual report planned

      Grazing School and Annie's Project - 1 of each planned during grant period

      Warm Season Grass conversion with herbicide in a grazing system - 1 planned per year

      Warm Season Grass conversion without herbicide in a grazing system - 1 planned per year

      Wildlife and Forage compatibility study - 1 study planned

      Grazing Costs Comparison Bulletin - 1 publication planned

      Patch Burn Grazing Study - 1 planned

      Rural Water and Beef Cow Usage Study - 1 planned

      Grazing Curriculum Development

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.