Precision Conservation: Optimizing Agricultural Production and Natural Resource Conservation
Humans are facing global challenges to meet food production, provide environmental protection, adapt to climate change, and address economic risk for farmers in the 21st century. Dr. Little will discuss new precision technologies and strategic conservation planning frameworks to optimize agricultural production, leading to increased profits while simultaneously reducing negative environmental impacts.
icon search Searchable Transcript
Toggle between list and paragraph view.
[00:00:00.810]The following presentation
[00:00:02.240]is part of the agronomy and horticulture seminar series
[00:00:05.840]at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
[00:00:08.310]All right, welcome everyone to week two
[00:00:12.520]of the fall 2021 agronomy and horticulture seminar series.
[00:00:18.500]My name is Dan Uden, and I'm an assistant professor
[00:00:22.460]in UNL School of Natural Resources,
[00:00:25.100]department of agronomy and horticulture
[00:00:26.800]and Center for Resilience
[00:00:29.020]in Agricultural Working Landscapes.
[00:00:31.850]It is my pleasure to introduce a colleague of mine
[00:00:36.660]from the School of Natural Resources, Dr. Andrew Little.
[00:00:41.930]Andy's an assistant professor of landscape ecology
[00:00:45.470]and habitat management,
[00:00:47.550]and he's also a wildlife extension specialist here at UNL.
[00:00:53.470]Andy has a rich background
[00:00:56.080]in landscape and wildlife ecology.
[00:00:58.220]He received his BS in wildlife and fishery science
[00:01:02.560]from Penn State, his MS in wildlife ecology
[00:01:06.640]from Mississippi State, and a PhD in wildlife ecology
[00:01:11.500]from the University of Georgia.
[00:01:13.330]He also completed a postdoc at Georgia
[00:01:16.500]prior to starting here at UNL.
[00:01:18.640]And here at UNL, Andy is the leader of the AWESM Lab,
[00:01:23.510]which in addition to describing members of that group
[00:01:27.730]stands for Applied Wildlife, Ecology, and Spatial Movement.
[00:01:33.110]And the AWESM Lab focuses on
[00:01:35.360]developing innovative solutions
[00:01:37.320]to growing wildlife conservation and management needs
[00:01:41.280]in multifunctional landscapes
[00:01:45.030]in landscapes where there are competing interests
[00:01:48.050]for agricultural production, wildlife conservation,
[00:01:51.270]and ecosystem services.
[00:01:53.650]And more specifically, Andy's research focuses largely
[00:01:57.930]on studying the ecology and management of ungulates,
[00:02:01.705]mesopredators, and game birds,
[00:02:04.430]as well as wildlife habitat relationships,
[00:02:07.540]landscape ecology, predator prey ecology,
[00:02:10.990]and precision conservation.
[00:02:13.530]All right, Andy, take it away.
[00:02:16.860]All right, hopefully you guys can hear me okay.
[00:02:20.570]So thanks, Dan. I really appreciate that introduction.
[00:02:22.960]Thanks for the invite to serve as the speaker for this week.
[00:02:27.500]And we're gonna talk a little bit
[00:02:28.730]about precision conservation
[00:02:31.030]and ways that we can help address the conservation needs
[00:02:34.190]that we have in our intensive agricultural systems.
[00:02:37.980]And again, those that Dan had mentioned
[00:02:40.010]about the AWESM Lab,
[00:02:41.130]if you want to learn more and follow us on social media,
[00:02:44.700]you can do so by @AWESMLab for Twitter,
[00:02:48.120]Facebook, and Instagram,
[00:02:49.850]and go like us on there,
[00:02:51.410]and you can follow us with our new information coming out
[00:02:53.550]about our research and extension efforts.
[00:02:56.440]All right, so we're gonna go ahead and get started,
[00:02:58.491]talk a little bit about an outline here,
[00:03:01.243]particularly, we're gonna talk a little bit
[00:03:03.020]about our AWESM Lab and what we specifically do
[00:03:05.600]just kind of at a 30,000 foot scale.
[00:03:08.095]And then we're gonna talk about a changing Midwest landscape
[00:03:12.260]talking about our conservation challenges
[00:03:14.220]that we have in this Midwest landscape in the 21st century.
[00:03:18.489]And then we're gonna discuss how our lab specifically
[00:03:21.940]is addressing these challenges
[00:03:23.680]through really three key areas
[00:03:25.880]and that being ag technology, human dimensions,
[00:03:29.350]and wildlife conservation and management.
[00:03:33.350]So my job at University of Nebraska-Lincoln
[00:03:35.760]is focused on landscape ecology,
[00:03:37.524]wildlife habitat management, as Dan was describing earlier.
[00:03:42.310]My position is a little unique
[00:03:43.830]in that I am 60% extension, 40% research.
[00:03:48.180]So I basically, in a sense, take the research information
[00:03:51.910]and translate that to the general public
[00:03:54.907]and in showing them the importance
[00:03:56.950]of the research that we are doing
[00:03:59.090]within the University of Nebraska system,
[00:04:02.300]but obviously more closely within my lab.
[00:04:06.370]So if you want to go learn more,
[00:04:07.980]again, we have our social media account
[00:04:10.550]that you can go check us out on,
[00:04:12.680]but also you can go just type into Google AWESM Lab UNL,
[00:04:16.880]and you'll be able to get to our website,
[00:04:18.235]and you can learn more about the research
[00:04:19.913]that we're doing here,
[00:04:21.040]our current research projects and extension efforts.
[00:04:24.258]Again, it's a great opportunity for you
[00:04:27.270]to just to learn more about how we're trying
[00:04:29.400]to focus on these conservation challenges in a landscape
[00:04:33.763]that we're gonna be talking about today
[00:04:35.590]where we have competing interests
[00:04:37.900]for agricultural production, environmental regulation
[00:04:43.420]and/or management, and how can we do this
[00:04:46.470]in a sustainable way
[00:04:48.798]into the 21st century as we continue on?
[00:04:52.960]So, with that, we're gonna talk and transition
[00:04:55.860]to this aspect of a changing Midwest landscape.
[00:04:58.570]And I like to kind of talk about setting the stage
[00:05:02.250]of why we need to look for innovative approaches
[00:05:07.060]in conservation in our agricultural landscapes
[00:05:10.710]by looking really at what are the challenges
[00:05:13.190]that we are facing right now.
[00:05:14.440]Why do we need some of these potential opportunities
[00:05:17.770]to help us address these complex challenges?
[00:05:20.630]So one of them being habitat loss and degradation.
[00:05:23.520]I don't think anybody is really naive to the point
[00:05:26.570]that we have lost habitat across the landscape
[00:05:30.650]for various wildlife species.
[00:05:32.790]A great example of this as we think about Lincoln
[00:05:36.420]and think about urbanization,
[00:05:38.920]so areas that historically were maybe agricultural fields
[00:05:41.824]are now turning into large developments.
[00:05:45.020]And so animals who potentially occupied those areas
[00:05:48.209]are obviously getting displaced
[00:05:50.400]and having to move to other areas.
[00:05:52.540]A great example beyond just the Midwest of this
[00:05:55.760]is when I worked as a postdoc at the University of Georgia.
[00:05:58.830]One of the things that they'd have a lot of issues with
[00:06:01.860]is bear human conflicts,
[00:06:03.820]so bears in the north Georgia mountains
[00:06:05.880]coming into contact with humans.
[00:06:07.970]And as Atlanta area continues to expand,
[00:06:11.410]organization continues down there,
[00:06:13.790]folks are moving into basically bear habitat.
[00:06:17.057]And so that basically increases the risk of encounters
[00:06:20.110]of bears by humans in the landscape.
[00:06:23.160]And so that's obviously a significant challenge,
[00:06:25.470]not only in the Midwest,
[00:06:26.799]but around the United States and globally.
[00:06:29.780]And here's a global example of that impact.
[00:06:32.830]So habitat loss then, in turn,
[00:06:35.020]has affected vertebrate species
[00:06:37.000]and across the world globally.
[00:06:39.340]And so we see there's been a pretty substantial decline
[00:06:42.238]since 1970 into 2012.
[00:06:48.260]And so this change, this decline,
[00:06:51.000]has really been facilitated
[00:06:53.670]by a substantial amount of habitat loss
[00:06:56.350]and degradation in the longterm.
[00:06:59.490]Furthermore, ag landscape simplification
[00:07:02.180]has occurred in the landscape.
[00:07:03.820]This graph here is basically to illustrate.
[00:07:05.870]It's USDA NASS data.
[00:07:07.920]So this is the agricultural crop data
[00:07:10.200]in the state of Nebraska.
[00:07:11.960]And this graph basically is illustrating
[00:07:14.995]a Simpson's diversity index,
[00:07:18.200]and it's a statistical methodology.
[00:07:21.770]And basically what I want you to kind of focus on here
[00:07:24.570]is the area noted by the red bar.
[00:07:27.560]So the higher that number is on the y-axis,
[00:07:30.880]that's basically illustrating more crop diversity
[00:07:33.750]in Nebraska landscape.
[00:07:36.360]And so we obviously peaked in the early 60s,
[00:07:39.870]early mid 60s in crop diversity on the landscape,
[00:07:42.740]but absolutely been declining since.
[00:07:45.150]This is also USDA NASS data.
[00:07:47.960]This is for corn acres in the state of Nebraska.
[00:07:51.000]Again, this data is publicly available.
[00:07:52.930]So you can go out and look at this data
[00:07:54.320]for any different crops
[00:07:55.180]in the landscape that you're interested in,
[00:07:57.140]but you can see the inverse relationship here
[00:07:59.170]where we have an increase in corn acres,
[00:08:01.400]which I don't think anybody is totally surprised by
[00:08:03.690]when they see that change over time.
[00:08:07.540]We also have had pretty substantial changes
[00:08:09.550]in our field structure over time.
[00:08:12.280]So this is a series of images that (indistinct) has compiled
[00:08:16.134]for Clay Center, Nebraska,
[00:08:18.100]and basically looking at the changes
[00:08:22.120]in the basic farmsteads over time.
[00:08:24.320]So you can see back in the late 30s,
[00:08:26.640]you can see how the size of these fields
[00:08:28.580]are relatively small,
[00:08:30.313]and obviously for a species like pheasant or quail,
[00:08:34.750]they have a lot of edge there.
[00:08:36.150]There's a lot of different fence lines in that landscape.
[00:08:39.440]But now we move on up from 1950 to 2006,
[00:08:43.650]and then out to where we currently are.
[00:08:45.340]You can see that same area transitioning over time
[00:08:49.300]as those fields become larger and larger over time
[00:08:53.710]to basically accommodate the crops
[00:08:55.897]and the changes that we're having more
[00:08:58.830]going from multi-family farms to single family farms
[00:09:03.816]where they're now taking a larger acres
[00:09:06.461]and putting those under production under the plow.
[00:09:09.770]So that has obviously changed.
[00:09:12.730]Concomitantly with that,
[00:09:13.641]we're also seeing a declining pheasant population.
[00:09:16.980]And so I talked to land owners, especially older land owners
[00:09:21.490]that are familiar with the times in the 60s
[00:09:24.480]and into the 70s where you had a lot of the crop diversity
[00:09:27.830]in the landscape.
[00:09:29.000]A lot of them will say, well, boy,
[00:09:30.510]pheasant numbers used to be really good,
[00:09:32.880]but they've been declining.
[00:09:34.520]Well, obviously there's a function of the intensification
[00:09:37.270]of agriculture because of that.
[00:09:38.677]And this data here is from the mail carrier survey
[00:09:42.090]that's conducted in the state of Nebraska
[00:09:44.127]by our mail carriers
[00:09:46.480]looking at pheasant population
[00:09:48.500]over a 100 kilometer square area.
[00:09:51.106]So as you can see the numbers from zero to 20 ranging here,
[00:09:55.780]and you can see that decline from the 50s
[00:09:57.750]on through 2010, et cetera.
[00:10:01.690]And if we continue this on out to 2021,
[00:10:04.440]you'd still see that continued decline.
[00:10:07.440]But one of the things that's really interesting,
[00:10:08.860]and I use pheasants as a great example,
[00:10:10.530]one because I'm working with Game and Parks
[00:10:12.350]on a pheasant project right now, but, two,
[00:10:14.730]because pheasant hunting as a whole in the state of Nebraska
[00:10:17.170]is a very large business annually
[00:10:20.220]to the state's $32 million estimated business to the state,
[00:10:23.900]that obviously has a trickle down effect
[00:10:25.790]to our small communities.
[00:10:28.040]For example, we'll take in center McCook, Nebraska.
[00:10:32.230]Obviously people come from all over the country
[00:10:34.620]to come down there to be able to hunt pheasants.
[00:10:36.990]And so, they're obviously, through the fall months,
[00:10:39.940]when pheasant season is in,
[00:10:41.930]obviously some of these businesses do rely on hunting
[00:10:45.622]to help support their business.
[00:10:47.700]So whether that's a hotel or restaurant,
[00:10:51.070]gas stations, et cetera,
[00:10:52.960]they can rely on hunting from folks coming in there
[00:10:56.526]and basically purchasing things
[00:10:59.300]at those different facilities.
[00:11:01.490]So that's a pretty significant boost
[00:11:03.050]to their economy, local economy.
[00:11:07.100]We also have challenges
[00:11:08.540]when we think about recreational opportunities.
[00:11:11.205]I am a father of three kids.
[00:11:13.380]I have a seven, four, and two year old kiddos.
[00:11:16.410]And for me being able to take off and run to a McCook
[00:11:20.620]or now to the panhandle to go hunting on a weekend,
[00:11:24.430]it's really hard for me to do that,
[00:11:26.060]just because I have responsibilities as a dad.
[00:11:28.270]I have to hang around home a lot of times.
[00:11:30.480]And so my ability to go that far on a regular basis
[00:11:33.745]for hunting is very limited.
[00:11:36.150]And so folks want recreational opportunities,
[00:11:38.810]whether that's hunting, birdwatching, you name it,
[00:11:42.380]you can throw it in there as a recreational opportunity
[00:11:44.650]closer to areas or more populous areas
[00:11:47.820]like Omaha and Lincoln.
[00:11:51.010]But at the same time, we had this challenge,
[00:11:53.390]and the university in their recent grant challenges effort
[00:11:56.160]has focused on developing
[00:11:59.330]this sustainable agricultural system,
[00:12:02.090]particularly addressing this topic
[00:12:04.050]of how are we going to feed a growing world,
[00:12:06.710]especially given that we're going to need
[00:12:09.150]to boost food production
[00:12:10.850]to be able to feed this growing world,
[00:12:13.290]especially by 2050,
[00:12:15.560]but how do we do that in a sustainable way?
[00:12:18.170]And that's what we're gonna talk a little bit
[00:12:19.249]about here in a few minutes.
[00:12:21.690]We also have challenges with water quality issues
[00:12:24.310]in Nebraska, so high nitrate levels,
[00:12:26.610]high atrazine levels in our systems.
[00:12:28.860]So those are things that we have to be aware of
[00:12:31.330]and thinking about how we can address them.
[00:12:33.900]And then lastly,
[00:12:34.733]we also address this topic of climate change.
[00:12:37.810]We have seen here in Nebraska in the past few years,
[00:12:41.225]some pretty substantial changes in the climate,
[00:12:44.860]whether that's into our drought conditions
[00:12:47.130]that we're experiencing out in Western Nebraska
[00:12:50.190]to some in 2019 with flooding issues.
[00:12:54.290]That is a huge challenge and how we're going to be able
[00:12:56.900]to address conservation and create these resilient
[00:13:00.950]and sustainable agricultural systems for the future years.
[00:13:05.920]So, I tend to use this slide here and talk to,
[00:13:09.490]especially when I'm talking to my students
[00:13:11.610]about creative problem solving and critical thinking.
[00:13:15.290]It's going to be really imperative for us
[00:13:18.030]to really critically think about these challenges
[00:13:20.890]and how can we develop sustainable, resilient solutions,
[00:13:27.670]given all of these challenges
[00:13:28.633]that we're having on the landscape?
[00:13:30.570]But we have to really think creatively to do that.
[00:13:34.310]So we're gonna now walk through how our lab, in particular,
[00:13:38.720]is addressing some of these challenges.
[00:13:40.640]There's no silver bullet, so I cannot offer that today,
[00:13:43.360]but I can say that we are developing ways
[00:13:46.090]to be able to address some of these challenges,
[00:13:47.980]and we'll continue to do
[00:13:49.030]in a very multidisciplinary approach.
[00:13:52.780]So we really focus on connecting agriculture
[00:13:55.170]and conservation within our lab.
[00:13:56.821]We find ways to be able to optimize agriculture
[00:13:59.720]and conservation in a way
[00:14:00.920]that we can benefit both the producer on the ground,
[00:14:03.480]but then also our natural resources.
[00:14:05.730]So think about soil erosion issues, trying to address those,
[00:14:10.140]trying to address water quality issues,
[00:14:12.720]wildlife benefits, et cetera.
[00:14:14.520]And so, we're gonna go through these three different areas
[00:14:17.870]here today and discuss what we're focusing on right now
[00:14:21.610]in our lab.
[00:14:23.370]So optimizing conservation delivery via ag technology,
[00:14:27.070]and some of you may be familiar with some of the technology
[00:14:29.230]we'll go through here shortly,
[00:14:30.380]but I want to show you how we can actually leverage that
[00:14:33.070]to help us optimize the way we're delivering conservation
[00:14:36.110]on the ground.
[00:14:37.980]So typically when a person is wanting to enroll
[00:14:41.330]in a conservation program, it's more of a,
[00:14:44.799]hey, I'll walk into the FSA office.
[00:14:47.520]I'll meet with some biologists.
[00:14:49.100]They'll give me some ideas based on my land.
[00:14:51.840]And it tends to be kind of more of what we consider
[00:14:54.450]that kind of shotgun pattern approach,
[00:14:56.340]so a patch here, a patch there, a patch here,
[00:14:59.220]a patch there type thing.
[00:15:01.000]Typically is not really targeted to a specific area,
[00:15:06.550]but one of the things I've had land owners approach me about
[00:15:10.410]and addressing these concerns is,
[00:15:12.860]well, we assumed if we build it, we'll have a response.
[00:15:16.407]So say they're interested
[00:15:17.880]in providing some hunting opportunities,
[00:15:20.100]or birdwatching opportunities,
[00:15:21.366]or pollinator habitat on their property.
[00:15:24.600]And sometimes they're saying,
[00:15:26.160]well, I'm not seeing that expected response.
[00:15:29.020]And so that role is this question of,
[00:15:32.240]what is going on, why is that not happening?
[00:15:35.373]I've been instructed, this is likely, if I put this in,
[00:15:38.910]I can hopefully get some response, but what's going on?
[00:15:42.110]When we start thinking about and zooming out
[00:15:44.340]from some of these patches,
[00:15:45.520]we have to think about patch connectivity,
[00:15:48.170]and think from a landscape ecology side of things
[00:15:50.840]that Dr. Uden and I currently co-teach
[00:15:53.310]landscape ecology together,
[00:15:55.110]we think about how these patches are arranged,
[00:15:57.440]the composition and configuration of those patches
[00:15:59.840]in the landscape and how that potentially facilitates
[00:16:02.920]or constrains animal movements across that.
[00:16:07.120]And so really landscape context is critical.
[00:16:10.160]If those patches are not arranged or set up in a way
[00:16:14.250]that's going to facilitate animal movements across there,
[00:16:18.280]animals don't necessarily just magically appear,
[00:16:20.360]so they have to come from somewhere.
[00:16:22.160]And so that's why it's really imperative
[00:16:24.350]to think about this landscape level approach.
[00:16:28.650]So this is where we're gonna try to jump
[00:16:30.210]into this landscape level approach
[00:16:32.070]and thinking about this
[00:16:33.480]through the eyes of precision conservation,
[00:16:35.900]which really is a innovative approach to land management
[00:16:39.440]and ways we can do this at kind of a multi-scale level.
[00:16:45.070]So I wanted to start before we try
[00:16:47.587]and jump into the regional scale analysis
[00:16:50.910]that we're working on.
[00:16:51.950]I want to just kind of give a brief introduction
[00:16:53.990]of precision ag for those who are not familiar,
[00:16:56.900]because we basically use the precision conservation efforts.
[00:17:01.040]We basically are leveraging precision ag technology,
[00:17:04.230]which, in my opinion, really is the future of farming
[00:17:06.660]in a lot of our systems,
[00:17:08.200]'cause it's focused on increasing
[00:17:09.670]farm production efficiency, productivity,
[00:17:12.950]as well as profitability.
[00:17:15.770]But the nice thing about precision ag is it also benefits us
[00:17:19.010]from decreasing our impacts on our wildlife, soils, water,
[00:17:24.219]the environment as a whole.
[00:17:26.550]So really it's a way we can optimize conservation delivery
[00:17:30.610]as we were talking about earlier.
[00:17:34.210]So the question you may be sitting there and saying, okay,
[00:17:36.130]well, that's nice,
[00:17:37.330]but where does that really fit into our everyday farming,
[00:17:41.280]this idea of precision conservation?
[00:17:44.790]Well, we think about data sets
[00:17:46.930]like a yield monitor data is a great example of this
[00:17:50.380]where we can take yield monitor data,
[00:17:52.640]and we can strategically target those marginal acres
[00:17:55.930]that are consistently marginal.
[00:17:58.380]So at Pheasants Forever,
[00:17:59.910]they have a phrase that basically states something
[00:18:03.520]to the effect of taking those red acres
[00:18:07.337]and turn them green or farming the best,
[00:18:09.640]conserving the rest.
[00:18:11.130]And 'cause conserving the rest could not only be focused
[00:18:13.720]on conservation efforts,
[00:18:15.080]but it can also be focused on increasing profitability
[00:18:18.500]through other avenues,
[00:18:19.650]which we'll describe here in a few minutes.
[00:18:23.340]So precision conservation really is focused
[00:18:25.820]on balancing these competing interests
[00:18:27.810]and, again, bringing these two realms of ag production
[00:18:30.967]and conservation together in a very sustainable way.
[00:18:35.880]And then, particularly, one of the things I wanted
[00:18:38.090]to highlight in this image here,
[00:18:39.690]this is from the prairie strips program
[00:18:41.880]at Iowa State University,
[00:18:42.885]and I'll go into this in a little bit more detail
[00:18:45.120]towards the end of the presentation,
[00:18:47.180]but what they set out about 15 years ago to do was to say,
[00:18:51.520]can we put perennial vegetation in our corn
[00:18:55.240]or soybean operations at some level,
[00:18:59.690]so whether that's a field that has 5% or 10% of a prairie,
[00:19:04.530]or even up higher, 50%,
[00:19:07.050]and what are those impacts across the board?
[00:19:12.000]Well, interestingly, through their project,
[00:19:14.340]through their efforts,
[00:19:15.173]they've been finding some really interesting data
[00:19:17.110]out of their studies in Iowa,
[00:19:18.518]and it really focuses on this idea of landscape diversity.
[00:19:22.410]And so I mentioned before connectivity
[00:19:24.950]of how these patches are aligned in the landscape
[00:19:28.090]and basically moving towards a time
[00:19:31.700]in which we can actually have more diverse cropping system
[00:19:35.290]versus more of our monocultural crop production.
[00:19:38.290]So they've seen pretty substantial impacts
[00:19:40.300]on not only their native bird species richness,
[00:19:42.760]pollinators, total water water runoff.
[00:19:45.780]They're seeing a substantial declines
[00:19:47.370]in that total water runoff.
[00:19:48.970]But one of the numbers that sticks out to me
[00:19:51.167]and in previous presentations with some producers
[00:19:54.948]around the state of Nebraska is this soil retention
[00:19:57.280]that they've been seeing.
[00:19:59.040]What they've basically targeted in their systems now,
[00:20:02.070]kind of their optimal percentage is about 10% of a corn
[00:20:05.960]or bean field they put in perennial vegetation.
[00:20:08.750]and they work strategically with the farmers
[00:20:11.740]to determine where they should actually put these STRIPS in
[00:20:15.100]to have the maximum benefit for them,
[00:20:17.845]given equipment needs,
[00:20:20.820]basically facilitating getting through those fields,
[00:20:24.210]et cetera, but what they've seen
[00:20:26.130]is some really substantial increase in soil retention.
[00:20:29.530]So when we think about that aspect,
[00:20:32.280]that's pretty substantial at 20 times increase
[00:20:34.580]in that soil retention by having just 10%
[00:20:38.180]of a corn bean field in perennial vegetation.
[00:20:43.470]So here's a more close up version of this
[00:20:46.060]you can see is this linear strip.
[00:20:48.520]So it makes it easy to farm around,
[00:20:51.630]because it's, again, just these linear strips.
[00:20:53.780]These strips are very analogous to what you see
[00:20:56.210]in places like the UK
[00:20:58.890]where they do what they call beetle banks.
[00:21:00.900]And so basically these are in the UK.
[00:21:03.500]They consider these kind of hedge rows or little strips
[00:21:06.920]as areas between fields
[00:21:09.110]where they can actually house beneficial pests.
[00:21:12.780]And so essentially a good example of this is
[00:21:15.970]we could have a housing of, say, lady beetles,
[00:21:18.700]which then, in turn, could go out
[00:21:20.090]and predate aphids in a field,
[00:21:21.890]reducing the amount of insecticide
[00:21:23.323]that you would have to apply in a field.
[00:21:28.790]So now you kind of set the stage
[00:21:30.820]for what precision ag is and conservation is
[00:21:34.590]and how we kind of leverage them.
[00:21:36.050]I want to talk a little bit about our multi-scale approach
[00:21:38.213]that we're implementing within our lab.
[00:21:40.390]So we think about this hot spot analysis
[00:21:42.830]kind of at a regional scale.
[00:21:44.070]The reason we think about this is that I've had state
[00:21:47.070]and federal agencies discuss their needs
[00:21:49.550]for developing a more targeted approach
[00:21:52.330]and how they're allocating funding on the landscape.
[00:21:55.530]We obviously don't have unlimited funding.
[00:21:58.862]That doesn't exist.
[00:22:00.010]There's no money tree we can go out
[00:22:01.690]and pull $100 bills off of.
[00:22:03.470]And so thinking at a regional scale,
[00:22:05.620]where should we be targeting most strategically
[00:22:08.220]our conservation efforts can really help agencies
[00:22:11.380]be more strategic in their funding.
[00:22:15.140]But obviously it's really imperative
[00:22:16.750]that we think about that sub-field scale.
[00:22:18.780]And I know Andrea Basche, Dr. Andrea Basche
[00:22:20.900]in the ag hor department focuses on this in particular
[00:22:23.730]with cover crops.
[00:22:25.020]And Andrea and I have been working together
[00:22:26.570]for a little while
[00:22:27.403]on some of these precision conservation efforts.
[00:22:30.750]So we're gonna go through this regional scale
[00:22:33.180]and thinking about how we can actually focus
[00:22:36.657]these hot spot type analyses
[00:22:39.610]to help agencies be more strategic as a whole.
[00:22:43.330]So some of the work that Dr. Andrea Basche,
[00:22:45.430]Dr. (indistinct), and I have focused on
[00:22:47.380]in the past couple of years have been thinking
[00:22:49.410]at this regional scale,
[00:22:51.680]basically looking at
[00:22:53.450]where we can potentially target conservation efforts.
[00:22:58.210]And so one of the more recent analyses
[00:23:00.500]that we've been working on,
[00:23:01.620]and now we have a PhD student assisting with this
[00:23:04.440]and tying actually yield monitor data
[00:23:06.270]to some of these datasets is looking at the NCCPI
[00:23:10.410]or the national commodity crop productivity index.
[00:23:14.630]And that's a soil productivity layer
[00:23:16.990]combined with other layers such as your county level yields,
[00:23:20.370]average cash rental rates, et cetera,
[00:23:22.630]and basically developing a predictive model
[00:23:25.040]at a regional scale where we can actually target
[00:23:28.350]consistently low yielding or marginal areas.
[00:23:33.150]So you can see here this data, this is preliminary data.
[00:23:36.170]This is one year of data.
[00:23:37.290]So take it as a grain of salt.
[00:23:39.070]Never trust just one year of data.
[00:23:40.800]It's gotta be a multi-year effort for some of this,
[00:23:43.670]but as we continue to out on some of these models,
[00:23:47.250]we're basically replicating some work
[00:23:48.930]that has been done over at Iowa State in the past.
[00:23:51.460]And basically they implemented this at a statewide scale
[00:23:55.000]and were able to basically know where under various years
[00:23:59.000]where you could potentially target conservation
[00:24:01.470]at that larger regional scale.
[00:24:04.020]So here's an example of how you could potentially target
[00:24:07.860]and work with producers on the ground
[00:24:10.151]at that regional scale.
[00:24:13.310]But we want to actually dive in a little further with this,
[00:24:15.660]and we want to actually say, okay,
[00:24:17.210]if we can kind of do that at a regional scale,
[00:24:19.870]is there ways that we can really start narrowing this down
[00:24:22.870]to what specific parcels are driving some of this,
[00:24:26.700]these changes in the link on the ground
[00:24:28.450]where you're seeing some of these low yielding areas
[00:24:30.770]at that regional scale?
[00:24:32.130]So we're gonna walk through the model
[00:24:33.532]that I have a couple of students that are gonna be working
[00:24:36.040]on over the next few years, expanding this effort,
[00:24:39.340]and basically helping dial in how we can target
[00:24:43.280]those properties more strategically.
[00:24:46.560]So we start off,
[00:24:47.480]and, again, this is gonna be a very simplified model.
[00:24:50.120]It can get very, very complex,
[00:24:51.720]but just for the sake of time,
[00:24:53.170]we'll go through just kind of a simplistic version of this.
[00:24:56.060]We can build on a modeling framework
[00:24:58.370]our species of interest.
[00:24:59.600]So I'm gonna use pheasants as a great example,
[00:25:01.631]'cause I know there's pheasants, that I mentioned,
[00:25:04.010]are a very significant economic importance here
[00:25:06.770]to the state of Nebraska.
[00:25:08.110]And so if we target a species that can have benefits,
[00:25:11.970]so if we're targeting and managing for pheasants,
[00:25:14.330]we can benefit not only pheasants,
[00:25:16.200]but we can benefit pollinators, small mammals, et cetera,
[00:25:20.043]that would actually be occupying those patches.
[00:25:23.870]If there are certain requirements
[00:25:25.260]that say we need a certain parcel size target,
[00:25:27.730]we can incorporate that into our modeling framework.
[00:25:31.430]We can also incorporate in things
[00:25:32.870]like suitable wildlife habitat.
[00:25:34.610]So if we have, say, a species that need 60% grassland,
[00:25:38.860]if we have certain parcel sizes, land parcel sizes,
[00:25:41.930]that need to meet that criteria,
[00:25:43.700]we can build that into our framework.
[00:25:47.040]And then we can also think about things
[00:25:49.010]like proximity to urban centers
[00:25:50.810]as we were discussing earlier is a challenge
[00:25:53.010]that we're having provide opportunities closer to home
[00:25:56.160]for a lot of folks.
[00:25:58.730]But one of the things that I see fairly often
[00:26:01.580]is when we're prioritizing lands,
[00:26:04.010]we a lot of times don't incorporate things
[00:26:07.030]like species ecology into them.
[00:26:09.340]So we can come up with a nice model and say,
[00:26:11.296]here's where the animals should be distributed,
[00:26:14.200]but when we think about
[00:26:15.300]where these individual patches are gonna be allocated,
[00:26:18.400]we need to think about things like dispersal and movements,
[00:26:22.508]thinking about things like survival, patch size,
[00:26:25.990]configuration, habitat selection,
[00:26:29.450]those really important factors for that species
[00:26:32.920]that's going to help them survive.
[00:26:34.970]So a great example of this would be
[00:26:37.230]if I am managing for pheasants,
[00:26:39.140]and their max dispersal distance is 10 miles away
[00:26:43.020]from a patch, I probably don't want to have a patch
[00:26:45.980]that's 40 miles away from the next patch
[00:26:48.530]if I'm trying to maximize the population growth
[00:26:53.490]at that point.
[00:26:54.340]And so really, we have to think about how can we combine
[00:26:58.300]these species components
[00:27:00.350]into some of our agricultural components.
[00:27:03.900]As I mentioned, we can talk about distance
[00:27:05.780]to metro areas as being a component into this.
[00:27:08.750]And then this is where we talk about bringing
[00:27:10.600]that agricultural data in.
[00:27:11.550]And then we can look at those marginal acres,
[00:27:15.000]those consistently marginal acres.
[00:27:16.690]And I do want to note
[00:27:18.320]when I say consistently marginal acres,
[00:27:21.320]if you have one year of data, as we described earlier,
[00:27:23.840]that's not what we were focusing on.
[00:27:25.330]We're focusing on multi-year consistently marginal acres
[00:27:29.800]that a producer and a lot of cases in talking
[00:27:32.240]with producers know where those acres are
[00:27:33.930]out on their fields.
[00:27:35.250]Those may be wet areas or maybe certain factors
[00:27:39.320]that are driving those conditions of why those areas
[00:27:43.490]are just not as profitable as others.
[00:27:45.920]And so we can work to target that,
[00:27:48.790]but eventually what we can develop
[00:27:50.277]is what we call conservation priority areas.
[00:27:53.660]So at that regional scale,
[00:27:55.680]we can then target individual parcels or lands
[00:27:59.360]that then meet the model criteria
[00:28:01.450]to help us make strategic decisions
[00:28:03.950]on how we should try to implement conservation
[00:28:08.230]at that private lands level.
[00:28:09.720]And particularly in Nebraska, this is very applicable,
[00:28:12.250]because we have 97% of our state being privately owned,
[00:28:17.000]which requires our conservation folks to actually work
[00:28:20.540]with our private land owners to implement conservation.
[00:28:24.170]A great example of this is Game and Parks
[00:28:26.570]has a private lands section
[00:28:29.010]within their Game and Parks Commission
[00:28:32.470]to handle working with landowners at that local scale.
[00:28:38.290]So now that we've looked at this
[00:28:39.730]from a regional scale, it's hot spot analysis,
[00:28:43.260]now we can drill down into some of these sub-field analyses
[00:28:46.320]or local scale analyses.
[00:28:49.150]And so, again, this leverages that local scale
[00:28:52.220]precision ag technology such as yield monitor data
[00:28:56.090]to strategically target conservation delivery.
[00:28:59.900]So as I mentioned previously,
[00:29:01.570]typically the way folks,
[00:29:02.998]if their enrolling in a conservation program,
[00:29:05.800]they would go into an FSA office.
[00:29:07.730]They would talk with the FSA biologists or agent,
[00:29:11.990]and they would come out and visit their property,
[00:29:14.890]talk through some potential programs or options
[00:29:17.840]that they can consider for their property.
[00:29:20.360]And so we'll kind of use a conservation reserve program
[00:29:23.250]as a great example of this.
[00:29:25.980]Well nowadays we can actually spatially ID
[00:29:30.050]When I worked,
[00:29:33.661]after I finished my master's degree
[00:29:35.480]and before I started my PhD,
[00:29:36.680]I worked at Ducks Unlimited as a GIS technician
[00:29:41.070]slash analysts there with them.
[00:29:42.530]And basically one of the things that during the time
[00:29:45.750]towards the end of my tenure there,
[00:29:47.830]we were moving towards this model
[00:29:49.540]rather than sending somebody out with a piece of paper
[00:29:52.270]and a list of names on there to visit
[00:29:54.170]and knock on their doors and ask them
[00:29:55.510]if they wanted to enroll in a wetland conservation program,
[00:29:59.060]we could say, hey, we can try to do this spatially
[00:30:02.480]ahead of time to save us those financial resources
[00:30:05.980]and target acres that meet certain model criteria
[00:30:09.100]similar to what I just described.
[00:30:11.150]And so we can do that at the local field scale
[00:30:13.210]by pulling in things like soil maps, hydrography layers,
[00:30:16.740]field boundaries, soil rental rates, et cetera.
[00:30:19.650]And this is some workout
[00:30:20.794]by a colleague of mine, Martin McConnell,
[00:30:22.524]who is a professor at Mississippi State University
[00:30:25.327]and a tool that he has developed.
[00:30:27.441]And this program basically is able to help identify
[00:30:30.481]those eligible acres within a farm that meet their criteria,
[00:30:35.250]'cause every one of these conservation programs
[00:30:37.190]is gonna have a set of criteria that your farm would have
[00:30:39.436]to meet to be eligible for enrollment.
[00:30:42.470]Now, obviously, one, you can't enroll all those areas
[00:30:45.413]that are showing up in green
[00:30:48.206]that are potentially eligible.
[00:30:50.520]And so we want to target those areas
[00:30:52.330]that are potentially those marginal that are not,
[00:30:55.690]they're consistently marginal,
[00:30:57.120]and are basically losing money for that producer.
[00:31:01.790]Well, historical yield monitor data,
[00:31:04.080]obviously, it's collected on many of our combines nowadays.
[00:31:07.950]And so we're able to look at this data
[00:31:09.760]from historical perspective,
[00:31:11.500]but obviously it doesn't necessarily pull in
[00:31:14.150]an actual financial component into that.
[00:31:16.400]In other words, it doesn't create a profitability surface,
[00:31:20.320]because there's too many factors that could go
[00:31:21.840]into building a profitability surface.
[00:31:23.760]But my colleague has been able to develop that,
[00:31:27.220]and this is work that we're gonna be hopefully expanding on
[00:31:30.170]here in the coming years with our research
[00:31:32.570]and ways that we can improve
[00:31:34.590]some of these estimation techniques.
[00:31:37.170]And so, you can create this profitability surface
[00:31:39.770]through things like yield monitor data, commodity prices,
[00:31:43.130]conservation payments for management costs, et cetera,
[00:31:47.500]and even further.
[00:31:48.390]We can even tie in other sources of revenue
[00:31:50.800]if the producer has other source of revenue
[00:31:53.800]that they'd like to potentially target for those areas,
[00:31:56.860]and then basically create this profitability surface
[00:32:00.370]that will allow us to show the producer, one,
[00:32:04.470]where are you eligible,
[00:32:06.090]but, two, where does that eligibility line up
[00:32:08.930]to these profitability areas.
[00:32:11.830]And we want to target those consistently marginal areas
[00:32:15.730]for enrollment in conservation programs.
[00:32:19.440]So a great example of this and how we can optimize the ROI
[00:32:24.130]and for farms as well as wildlife
[00:32:26.010]or natural resource management is from a field.
[00:32:29.610]This was in North Dakota.
[00:32:32.379]And this basically this field
[00:32:34.620]was under corn production in 2015.
[00:32:37.100]You can see the yellow and green areas
[00:32:39.560]looking at the profitability.
[00:32:40.860]So, the yellow or green are showing it is more profitable
[00:32:45.050]in those areas versus those areas showing up in red.
[00:32:48.600]And you can see here in the table
[00:32:51.510]that the producer is losing money per acre
[00:32:55.140]on this field, but when they took
[00:32:57.390]and they chopped that section off
[00:32:58.930]and basically put that into pasture for cattle,
[00:33:01.470]they were able to actually increase
[00:33:02.790]that return on investment for that field.
[00:33:05.090]So now, they're basically taking those areas,
[00:33:08.430]not necessarily having to conserve them in a way
[00:33:10.420]that we're just putting in a conservation program,
[00:33:13.100]but putting them into a different approach or diversifying
[00:33:16.253]that landscape by now having cattle grazing on that.
[00:33:20.120]Now you start quantifying that
[00:33:21.570]across some of our farmers have obviously multiple fields,
[00:33:25.330]thousands of acres,
[00:33:26.950]that can really basically return substantial
[00:33:30.020]financial benefits to them in the longterm
[00:33:32.780]as they begin to adopt these types of ideas.
[00:33:36.810]We can also think about additional options
[00:33:39.070]to incorporate into those areas.
[00:33:40.490]So as I mentioned, cow grazing was one of them.
[00:33:43.310]We can have cover crops,
[00:33:44.410]so kind of these sub-field cover crop establishment
[00:33:47.999]in some of these targeted areas.
[00:33:50.020]So essentially we're kind of pinpoint
[00:33:51.800]and targeting these areas
[00:33:53.080]for alternative diversification of that in those areas.
[00:33:58.010]Hunting is another great option there
[00:34:00.170]that potentially can be employed.
[00:34:02.970]My colleague, again, Martin McConnell
[00:34:04.670]from down in Mississippi State,
[00:34:06.300]they found a producer who had a section of their field.
[00:34:08.480]It was regularly inundated with water,
[00:34:11.140]'cause it was right along the Mississippi River.
[00:34:12.950]They took that area out of production
[00:34:15.970]and put that into a hunting lease
[00:34:17.760]and were able to actually maximize the profitability
[00:34:20.680]for that producer on that field.
[00:34:24.800]With all these efforts, we can really focus on
[00:34:28.059]not necessarily the traditional
[00:34:30.150]conservation enrollment approach,
[00:34:31.630]which I mentioned earlier
[00:34:32.820]as kind of a shotgun pattern approach in a lot of cases,
[00:34:35.439]but we can begin to develop
[00:34:37.290]what we call conservation cooperatives.
[00:34:39.930]So these areas where we can work collectively
[00:34:42.870]with a group of land owners,
[00:34:44.930]getting to that point of a multi-farm cooperative.
[00:34:48.470]This cooperative idea is built out of other work
[00:34:52.633]that I've seen in other states
[00:34:54.081]where they've used it for, say, deer management
[00:34:57.890]where they can actually work together
[00:34:59.950]instead of managing your 500 acres.
[00:35:02.630]Now you're actually managing at that landscape scale,
[00:35:06.150]potentially thousands of acres
[00:35:07.760]with your neighbors collectively.
[00:35:09.370]You may be farming differently on some of them,
[00:35:11.600]but as a management, those marginal acres can be managed
[00:35:14.720]in a way that can benefit not only the individual farm,
[00:35:18.020]but the multi-farm effort.
[00:35:20.930]And this really leads to this point of developing
[00:35:23.370]what I call stackable enterprises.
[00:35:25.360]So we kind of start with our traditional farm,
[00:35:28.070]and we think about, okay, we're farming it
[00:35:29.990]in the normal way.
[00:35:31.420]And I'm using row crops here.
[00:35:33.030]We could transition this to our rangeland systems
[00:35:36.330]with livestock, but we can begin to build
[00:35:39.440]and basically create this stackable style enterprise
[00:35:43.510]of hunting, birdwatching.
[00:35:46.350]We could even bring in like we had a course recently,
[00:35:48.760]Agri 42, introduction to production ag systems.
[00:35:52.730]We have both the ag and livestock component of that course.
[00:35:55.670]One livestock component will be coming up here
[00:35:58.570]at fall break.
[00:36:00.130]But actually having our farmers educate the general public
[00:36:03.790]about ag production systems as well,
[00:36:06.290]or bringing our UNL extension teams out to those farms
[00:36:09.800]to educate the general public about farm management.
[00:36:12.850]And so there's a variety of ways that we can do this.
[00:36:15.670]A great example of this being done right now
[00:36:18.180]is the Calamus Ranch, Calamus Outfitters in the Sandhills.
[00:36:22.540]They basically started out as more focused on ranching,
[00:36:26.660]that rangeland system,
[00:36:28.070]but now have diversified their system
[00:36:30.410]to provide additional opportunities
[00:36:32.470]such as wildlife watching, tours of their farm, their ranch.
[00:36:37.929]And basically that provides them additional income
[00:36:41.210]by diversifying their operation.
[00:36:44.290]And so, again, that's the point.
[00:36:46.180]It helps diversify and improve the profitability.
[00:36:50.520]But all of this doesn't come...
[00:36:51.730]We can develop all these techniques,
[00:36:54.770]and it's great to do that,
[00:36:56.040]but we really have to focus on this other pillar,
[00:36:58.380]which is human dimensions in ag landscapes.
[00:37:01.570]So, one of the things that we have to think about
[00:37:04.480]with developing these tools and techniques, it's great,
[00:37:06.980]but we have to get people to buy into them.
[00:37:09.120]And so that's where we have a grant right now
[00:37:11.030]with the Nebraska Environmental Trust
[00:37:12.610]focused on farmers and farm land owners attitudes
[00:37:15.290]of targeted conservation delivery.
[00:37:17.650]I have two master's students
[00:37:19.350]that are focused on this right now
[00:37:21.240]and looking at both sides of the coin,
[00:37:23.580]the conservation folks,
[00:37:25.140]and kind of how they are reviewing conservation delivery
[00:37:27.760]and ag landscapes, but the producers side of it.
[00:37:30.930]So we have a group of conservation folks
[00:37:34.580]that are working with us through a series of surveys,
[00:37:37.540]but then on the other side,
[00:37:39.200]we're going to be submitting surveys out here
[00:37:41.420]later this year into early 2022
[00:37:44.139]across the state to about 7,500 to 8,000 farmers
[00:37:48.710]and farm landowners and addressing conservation delivery
[00:37:52.450]using things like precision ag technology.
[00:37:56.940]And then the third pillar I want to talk about
[00:37:59.520]is wildlife conservation,
[00:38:00.980]given that that's my background
[00:38:02.500]and focusing on wildlife management.
[00:38:04.870]So I have a couple of PhD students
[00:38:06.930]that are working right now on a project identifying
[00:38:09.690]and prioritizing habitat for pheasant management
[00:38:12.070]in Nebraska, especially given
[00:38:14.070]that it has such an economic impact to our state.
[00:38:17.340]Some work by Chris Jorgensen back in 2014
[00:38:20.240]developed this map to illustrate pheasant abundance
[00:38:22.654]across the state.
[00:38:24.220]If you go and tie these areas in, say, Southwest Nebraska,
[00:38:28.440]and we'll look at where those are most abundant
[00:38:30.690]pheasant populations, what you'll find is obviously
[00:38:33.120]that land cover, there's a lot of CRP in that area.
[00:38:36.760]There's also a lot of small green production.
[00:38:39.120]So pheasants really like that type of landscape
[00:38:42.240]compared to the typical corn bean operation.
[00:38:46.010]And so we wanted to further tailor this work
[00:38:49.193]into more of a regional effort
[00:38:50.810]and begin to move towards this model of these patches
[00:38:54.440]and corridors and looking at how these patches are laid out
[00:38:59.343]on the landscape and how can we work
[00:39:01.310]with our conservation agencies to help identify
[00:39:05.830]and prioritize these areas
[00:39:07.640]where they should focus their efforts most strategically.
[00:39:11.450]And again, that ties directly back into this model
[00:39:13.830]that we just went through.
[00:39:14.830]At that regional scale, where do we invest our resources?
[00:39:20.680]We also just got word this week
[00:39:23.079]that we have received funding to establish prairie strips
[00:39:26.770]with that prairie strip program
[00:39:28.053]that I mentioned from Iowa state
[00:39:30.650]and here in the state of Nebraska.
[00:39:32.600]And so we're going to begin rolling that out here
[00:39:36.000]in the coming months, in the coming years here
[00:39:38.057]with that effort and to focus on ways
[00:39:40.900]that we can maximize the profitability for producers
[00:39:44.020]while at the same time
[00:39:45.010]reducing impacts on our natural resources.
[00:39:48.460]So in particular, with the research objectives
[00:39:50.680]with that grant, we're going to help facilitate
[00:39:53.950]the establishment of prairie strips
[00:39:55.900]as really a multi-state effort across seven states.
[00:39:59.380]And you can see the different collaborators
[00:40:00.888]that are a part of this grant effort.
[00:40:04.230]And so University of Nebraska is one of those
[00:40:07.150]and being able to start demonstrating from Eastern Nebraska
[00:40:11.140]to Western Nebraska how prairie strips can help producers
[00:40:15.362]and particularly on the natural resource conservation
[00:40:18.540]side of things, but doing it in a way
[00:40:20.610]that's going to help benefit their overall profitability.
[00:40:24.440]We also with that are going to work on
[00:40:26.460]how can we best communicate the value of prairie strips.
[00:40:30.360]And I think that's one of the most important aspects,
[00:40:32.620]especially given my role as an extension
[00:40:35.230]is how can we work with our land owners
[00:40:38.510]to best communicate the importance of establishing
[00:40:42.560]these prairie strips in their farms,
[00:40:45.161]on their farms, across the state
[00:40:48.250]and what things can we learn
[00:40:50.490]from our producers on the ground,
[00:40:52.520]getting their feedback
[00:40:53.820]and letting them communicate the value of these things
[00:40:57.530]to others in their community?
[00:41:01.000]So with all of that,
[00:41:02.280]and we'll kind of wrap up here in the last few slides
[00:41:04.980]and say that we can connect agriculture and conservation,
[00:41:08.530]not only at that local scale.
[00:41:10.350]So we can think about reducing habitat loss.
[00:41:13.260]This is a photo from Ryan Heiniger
[00:41:16.110]who is the director of precision ag slash farmer
[00:41:19.340]in the state of Iowa.
[00:41:21.510]You can see the area noted here in yellow,
[00:41:23.770]the grass area there,
[00:41:25.540]where he noted that was an area
[00:41:27.560]based on his yield monitor data,
[00:41:28.960]that it was not very profitable.
[00:41:31.720]So he'd essentially chop that off,
[00:41:33.650]put that into a perennial vegetation,
[00:41:36.300]and then basically began to farm the rest of that field,
[00:41:39.320]your soy beans,
[00:41:40.830]but then provided habitat for other wildlife,
[00:41:42.953]and then potentially could go in there
[00:41:44.900]and potentially hunt pheasants,
[00:41:47.290]or would that be a place for pollinators, et cetera?
[00:41:51.370]Well, we can do this in a way
[00:41:52.360]that helps increase the producer's profit across the board.
[00:41:54.860]And I think that's one of the most important aspects
[00:41:57.270]that we have to think about is how can we do this in a way
[00:41:59.740]that's not going to negatively impact the producer
[00:42:03.130]and their profitability,
[00:42:04.720]especially given the amount of risks
[00:42:06.790]that producers have to deal with
[00:42:08.635]really on a day-to-day basis?
[00:42:11.850]At that regional scale, as I mentioned,
[00:42:13.670]we can think about this from patch connectivity
[00:42:16.040]for wildlife and kind of where these patches,
[00:42:18.070]where these farms are allocated on the landscape,
[00:42:20.750]and how can we improve that through things like corridors
[00:42:24.540]for wildlife across the landscape
[00:42:27.480]and helping improve that connectivity,
[00:42:30.000]but also helping to target
[00:42:31.360]those limited financial resources.
[00:42:33.020]We obviously have limited financial resources,
[00:42:36.370]and we can't expect that we can put money everywhere.
[00:42:39.460]And so how can we do that in a very sustainable
[00:42:42.120]and strategic way to have landscape level impact?
[00:42:47.320]So with that, I will conclude the presentation,
[00:42:49.648]but I do want to note this slide here.
[00:42:51.640]This is from Alto Leopold.
[00:42:52.910]He is the father of wildlife management.
[00:42:56.330]I really think this quote,
[00:43:00.250]it really shows the importance of conservation
[00:43:03.560]knowing that it is not something that happens immediately.
[00:43:07.530]We live really in a microwave generation
[00:43:09.900]or an iPhone generation
[00:43:11.410]that I feel like we always have things instantaneously,
[00:43:14.580]but really conservation takes time.
[00:43:17.520]A perfect example of this is prairie strips.
[00:43:20.300]For the first couple of years,
[00:43:21.420]they may look like a weedy field,
[00:43:23.270]but then from those weedy fields,
[00:43:25.207]we begin to see emergence of these beautiful prairies
[00:43:27.943]that come about, but it takes time.
[00:43:30.580]It doesn't happen overnight.
[00:43:32.220]And that's the thing that we have to always remember
[00:43:34.500]that it's going to take time,
[00:43:36.580]but we can do both of these things.
[00:43:39.140]We can optimize agricultural production
[00:43:41.129]and natural resource conservation.
[00:43:43.720]So with that, if I have any time for questions,
[00:43:46.100]I'll be glad to answer any of them.
[00:43:47.690]Feel free again to contact me.
[00:43:50.030]Here's my email address.
[00:43:51.440]And again, go and like our various social media accounts
[00:43:54.720]and follow us on there.
[00:43:58.580]All right, thank you, Andy.
[00:44:01.590]That was awesome, pun intended.
[00:44:07.450]We do have time for questions if there are any,
[00:44:10.310]and as I mentioned, feel free to type those in the chat
[00:44:14.960]or to raise your hand, and we'll unmute you.
[00:44:18.580]While folks are thinking of their questions,
[00:44:22.860]I'll get us started with one of my own.
[00:44:25.220]I was interested in what the potential dimensions
[00:44:31.630]of a prairie strip might be
[00:44:36.920]and if there's any sort of research in the benefits of that
[00:44:40.260]and how it changes with size or location.
[00:44:45.180]Could you speak to that at all?
[00:44:46.600]Yeah, so you're saying the question is,
[00:44:48.374]the dimensions like the size of those strips,
[00:44:51.860]whether that's like a 30 meter or 120 meter wide strip?
[00:44:55.270]Is that what you're-
[00:44:57.850]Yeah, so there are.
[00:44:59.610]And so, Iowa state actually has,
[00:45:01.700]if you want to go to their website,
[00:45:02.830]they have a lot more information on it.
[00:45:04.930]They can get more detailed results on the different widths,
[00:45:08.890]but 30 meters is really your minimum width.
[00:45:11.440]That's usually what a lot of conservation programs
[00:45:13.700]tend to focus on as kind of your minimum width
[00:45:16.400]to have some level of impact.
[00:45:18.750]Obviously, there is probably an optimal number,
[00:45:23.430]but it's probably really gonna be dependent
[00:45:25.000]on that field structure.
[00:45:26.580]So a great example of this would be is
[00:45:28.340]if you have a pretty substantial slopes within the field,
[00:45:32.740]you're obviously going to need a little wider width buffer
[00:45:36.120]to basically address that water runoff issue
[00:45:39.510]versus something that's smaller.
[00:45:40.850]And I do want to also note,
[00:45:42.710]and this is in talking with prairie strips folks,
[00:45:45.570]is that the strips, it's a nice name,
[00:45:48.970]but it doesn't necessarily mean it has to come
[00:45:50.530]in a linear strip.
[00:45:51.780]The idea there is that you want to be able to put it in ways
[00:45:54.810]that are going to help the producer be able
[00:45:56.530]to farm around that.
[00:45:58.860]So it probably doesn't make sense
[00:46:00.230]to put it in irregular shape pattern,
[00:46:03.520]but if it was in a block, for example,
[00:46:05.420]you could easily do that.
[00:46:06.253]It really just depends on the physical structure
[00:46:08.610]of those fields.
[00:46:09.640]So, Dan, I don't know if that answers your question or not.
[00:46:13.040]Yeah, that's great.
[00:46:14.960]And it actually leads into our next question
[00:46:20.150]in the chat from Becky.
[00:46:22.240]Are the prairie strips going to be statewide
[00:46:25.940]through NRCS EQIP or through UNL?
[00:46:30.040]So I assume Becky is referring to the project
[00:46:32.920]that we're talking about.
[00:46:34.300]The project that we're talking about
[00:46:35.690]is a relatively small scale project to start out.
[00:46:39.530]And so it's more of like an extension-driven effort
[00:46:42.740]to start rolling out some demo sites across the state,
[00:46:46.780]not only with more producers,
[00:46:48.832]but hopefully with some of our research
[00:46:51.607]and extension centers in the coming months or so.
[00:46:55.180]And so with that, currently, I should say,
[00:47:00.322]the prairie strip program is actually
[00:47:02.138]in the current farm bill.
[00:47:05.540]So producers can go in at CP43.
[00:47:08.130]so they can actually get approved for CP43
[00:47:10.800]in the state of Nebraska.
[00:47:12.710]I believe there's over 200 some producers,
[00:47:16.640]if I'm not mistaken, that may have that in Nebraska.
[00:47:19.750]I can't remember the exact number,
[00:47:21.090]but I know there were a number of folks
[00:47:22.660]that are adopting it,
[00:47:23.640]and a lot of that being based out of the work
[00:47:25.360]coming out of Iowa.
[00:47:26.880]And so there are folks that are getting engaged in this
[00:47:30.580]across the state of Nebraska.
[00:47:33.070]But one of the things that we want to look at
[00:47:34.990]is Iowa and Nebraska are obviously two different states,
[00:47:38.974]we have different topography,
[00:47:40.540]we have different rain gradients.
[00:47:42.320]And so that's part of our opportunities
[00:47:44.030]to actually explore from not only an extension side,
[00:47:47.090]but also from a research side where these are at,
[00:47:50.500]and are there ways that we can kind of improve these things
[00:47:53.740]and make these more customizable to farms?
[00:47:56.380]So I don't know, Becky, if that answers your question.
[00:47:57.996]If it doesn't,
[00:47:59.010]I'll be happy to provide some additional response.
[00:48:07.919]Yeah, Becky, thank you.
[00:48:09.131]Becky says yes.
[00:48:11.170]Another question on strips,
[00:48:12.967]and it's actually a two-part question from Kayden,
[00:48:16.420]First, if there are any specific native flowers
[00:48:20.490]that pollinators prefer in Nebraska specifically.
[00:48:24.430]So what a species in the strip might be best?
[00:48:28.350]And then secondly, how do you keep the prairie in the strip?
[00:48:32.220]How do you keep plants from spreading out
[00:48:34.620]into the crop field and negatively affecting yield there?
[00:48:40.610]Yeah, so two really good questions.
[00:48:42.840]I will say the first one,
[00:48:44.150]I am not an expert on those plants
[00:48:46.480]that are for the pollinators.
[00:48:47.600]I will defer to somebody like Judy Wu-Smart,
[00:48:50.670]or others in entomology
[00:48:51.789]can probably give a better response to that than myself,
[00:48:55.032]but in regards to affecting the productivity of the crops,
[00:48:58.350]so, in general, the farmers are still,
[00:49:00.940]they're farming right against those areas.
[00:49:02.930]In some cases in which they tend to recommend
[00:49:05.900]is they're actually managing those strips.
[00:49:08.070]So it's not necessarily just taking and set it aside,
[00:49:10.700]and that's all we're gonna do.
[00:49:12.410]We're actively going to, in some cases, come through there
[00:49:15.280]and mow those down at times, setting back succession,
[00:49:19.240]because one of the things we've learned,
[00:49:20.590]particularly through the CRP, Conservation Reserve Program,
[00:49:23.990]is we can't just take a set aside these acres
[00:49:27.090]and just let it go.
[00:49:28.120]We have to actively manage that setback succession,
[00:49:31.400]'cause what will happen is those areas
[00:49:32.685]can become biological deserts for certain species
[00:49:37.552]as succession occurs over time.
[00:49:39.670]And basically things like, for example,
[00:49:41.220]a pheasant chick may not necessarily be able
[00:49:44.110]to get through some of those patches
[00:49:45.502]if you don't have some type of management tool
[00:49:49.108]setting back succession.
[00:49:51.054]So, again, they are actively farming right up against them.
[00:49:54.760]So they're planting corn, soybeans.
[00:49:56.500]They may be plowing right up against those
[00:49:58.548]and keep those in place.
[00:50:00.860]So I don't know if that answers your question, Kayden,
[00:50:03.120]or not, but, again, I would defer the first one
[00:50:05.650]to somebody in entomology who would give you
[00:50:07.520]a little bit better ideas.
[00:50:08.980]I can also note too,
[00:50:10.300]Iowa state has a tremendous body of literature,
[00:50:14.350]not only peer reviewed literature,
[00:50:16.320]but general extension materials
[00:50:19.180]tied to some of these questions
[00:50:20.590]that you can go just type Google prairie strips Iowa state,
[00:50:23.970]and you can actually find
[00:50:24.803]a lot of that information out there
[00:50:28.110]to help answer some of these questions.
[00:50:30.450]Excellent, thank you.
[00:50:31.950]I'll just continue to pose another question of mine
[00:50:36.710]related to continuing along the prairie strips.
[00:50:43.280]Andy, in your experience,
[00:50:45.930]and this might fall into your ongoing project
[00:50:49.220]on land owner attitudes, but what our producer perceptions
[00:50:54.270]if they're interested in something like this,
[00:50:56.070]doing it through a conservation program
[00:51:00.000]like a conservation easement
[00:51:01.740]versus just doing it on their own?
[00:51:05.820]Is there a preference there you're hearing
[00:51:11.300]as far as additional flexibility
[00:51:13.440]to use those areas for other purposes?
[00:51:19.890]Yeah, so thinking along the lines
[00:51:23.750]from the participants
[00:51:26.400]that are in our conservation programs,
[00:51:27.990]I will note that obviously my work in those NRCS offices
[00:51:31.173]and work with those producers on a day-to-day basis.
[00:51:33.550]So they would have a better idea of that,
[00:51:35.570]but in a larger perspective,
[00:51:38.946]I think it's really gonna depend on a lot of situations.
[00:51:42.300]There is an interest, I think, from some producers,
[00:51:45.410]especially now we're seeing with cover crop adoption
[00:51:48.540]to think about the longevity of conserving their soils
[00:51:52.350]and managing those systems more sustainably.
[00:51:55.990]And so something like we think about prairie strips,
[00:51:59.920]one of the challenges that a lot of cases
[00:52:02.300]we're always gonna have is
[00:52:03.133]if I'm not getting necessarily a payment for that,
[00:52:07.780]I'm not necessarily gonna always just want to go adopt that
[00:52:10.040]and put it out on my farm.
[00:52:11.549]I need to have some way to kind of offset costs for that.
[00:52:15.990]And so that's where a lot of the conservation programs
[00:52:18.030]come into play where they can help the producer
[00:52:20.790]by paying for seed, and they can pay for diesel,
[00:52:23.750]and basically everything to kind of get that plant
[00:52:26.070]in the ground and help with management costs and such
[00:52:29.450]into the future.
[00:52:31.090]So the producer doesn't necessarily have to bear
[00:52:32.950]the burden of having to do all of that
[00:52:34.950]plus manage all their current farming operations.
[00:52:38.550]So it's gonna depend a little bit,
[00:52:41.270]but I do know there is more of an interest in general
[00:52:44.820]that I've seen through other avenues,
[00:52:47.420]but hopefully through some of our work
[00:52:48.980]that we're doing right now, our human dimensions work,
[00:52:50.950]we'll get a better idea of what are some of these barriers
[00:52:54.111]or constraints to adoption of conservation programs
[00:52:57.901]in Nebraska through that human dimensions effort,
[00:53:01.070]as I mentioned earlier,
[00:53:02.280]and also what ways we can work with producers
[00:53:04.920]to help facilitate more adoption.
[00:53:07.560]But a lot of this, again, is always you're gonna have
[00:53:09.830]to come back to is that there is money
[00:53:12.060]that's going to limit our ability to some level,
[00:53:14.470]because we don't have unlimited funds
[00:53:16.210]to adopt conservation efforts everywhere.
[00:53:21.650]Yeah, thank you.
I don't know
[00:53:22.600]if that answered your question or not.
[00:53:26.350]I'll be interested to follow that research.
[00:53:32.260]I'll note this.
[00:53:33.450]if others have thoughts or ideas,
[00:53:35.960]one of the things that I and our lab
[00:53:37.920]really pride ourselves on
[00:53:39.830]is developing multidisciplinary research teams.
[00:53:43.310]I'm obviously not an agronomist.
[00:53:45.417]So thoughts that you guys may have, we welcome them,
[00:53:48.430]because we really, in my mind,
[00:53:50.980]it's going to take a very multidisciplinary approach
[00:53:53.890]to solve some of these very complex challenges.
[00:53:57.370]And so, again, I'll welcome any feedback
[00:53:58.651]that you guys may have.
[00:54:00.770]Well, thank you again, Andy, for presenting today.
[00:54:06.810]And thank you, again, to everyone for attending.
[00:54:12.000]And we look forward to future seminars in the series
[00:54:16.140]the rest of the fall.
Log in to post comments