2015 Cover Crop Conference coming to West Des Monies


This farmer in South Dakota utilizes a cover crop combination of crimson clover, oats, common vetch, radish, and New York style turnip. (USDA NRCS South Dakota/Flickr)

Nick Fetty | January 27, 2015

The 2015 Iowa Cover Crops Conference will be held in West Des Moines on February 17 and 18.

The annual event is hosted by the Soil and Water Conservation Society, Conservation Districts of Iowa , and the Midwest Cover Crops Council. This year’s event will include a presentation from Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey as well as farmers and other agribusiness professionals.

Cover crop usage in Iowa has gained momentum in recent years with just 10,000 acres planted in 2009 and more than 300,000 acres by 2013. Cover crops are one of the techniques outlined in the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy as a way of minimizing fertilizer runoff which pollutes waterways. Approximately 70 percent of the nitrogen and phosphorus in the Gulf of Mexico dead zone came from the Mississippi River.

A report by the international consulting firm Datu Research last year found that 23 percent of Iowa farmers reported utilizing cover crops. The report found that Iowa farmers are also practicing no-till and minimum tillage techniques as well as crop rotation, all of which can reduce runoff and improve soil health.

An ongoing study by researchers at the University of Illinois suggests that the use of cover crops does not increase yields but it does “increase the amount of sequestered soil organic carbon.” However, research by scientists at Purdue University has found that cover crops can improve corn stover yields which can be used as a biofuel.

The cost of next month’s event is $99 for those who register before February 16 and $125 for those who register onsite.

New website promotes Iowa’s energy-saving efforts


A new website looks to promote the energy efficiency efforts of central Iowa cities. ShareGoodEnergy.org was created as part of an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant received by Des Moines, Urbandale, West Des Moines and Ankeny. The Des Moines register reports that in addition to displaying the energy-saving accomplishments of these four cities, the website also offers advice on how other cities can enact similar environmental practices:

The creation of the site is the result of a more than $1.1 million from the federal Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program. As recipients of the grant, the cities were required to communicate with residents and business owners about their efforts to reduce energy consumption, West Des Moines city planner Aaron Chittenden said. Continue reading

New co-op in West Des Moines


Photo by plasticdollhouse, Flickr

Strong community interest succeeded in bringing a new co-op to West Des Moines. The Tallgrass Grocery Co-op, located in the Valley Junction neighborhood, opens in the fall and offers locally grown and produced foods. The Des Moines Register reports that the financial support of locals ensured the co-op’s opening:

Organizers put out a call for supporters on June 6 with the stipulation that they would launch the market only if 200 people committed $100 each to the cause by the end of the month. Unlike a traditional store, co-ops are member-owned, and the Tallgrass founders wanted to ensure the market had the community support it would need to be successful.

The group hit its target number in two weeks with checks coming from across the metro area, said charter member Carlyn Crowe.

This co-op offers peace of mind to those in the Wes Des Moines area concerned with the quality of food available on the market.

“With a co-op, there’s no wondering what is or what might not be in your food,” said Shanen Ebersole, whose family sells grass-fed, hormone-free beef. “Local food going to local people was a system that worked for centuries, and it’s something that a lot of people want to get back to.”

West Des Moines strides toward sustainability


Photo by jakebouma, Flickr

By taking measures to improve energy efficiency West Des Moines has cut down both energy consumption and cost in recent years. The Des Moines Register reports that West Des Moines’ improvements include energy conservation efforts at 13 municipal building in the city, and the replacement of old lights with LED bulbs at various city-owned properties. These projects are funded by grants and local dollars, but with the money saved by these changes, the expenditures are only a financial loss in the short term:

All the projects will pay for themselves well before the life of the equipment expires, said Linda Schemmel, an associate city planner.

“We’re really trying to incorporate this into where it’s not just about being green, it’s just the way we are,” she said. “It’s a part of daily life.”

West Des Moines has received more than $567,000 from Iowa’s energy independence program and the federal Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant. A large portion of funds – which have been matched with city money or grants from other organizations – have already been put to use, and West Des Moines leaders are seeing results. Continue reading

On the Radio: Windsor Heights keeps Iowa green


Winsdor Heights is going green.

Listen to this week’s radio segment on Windsor Heights and its plans for sustainability.

Just north of West Des Moines sits Windsor Heights – a small city brimming with ideas for cleaner, healthier living.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus on sustainable communities.

Windsor Heights has already turned green – its green landscaping keep its water cleaner and river levels lower. The use of high-tech lights reduces energy use across the city. Continue reading