Western Sustainable Ag Crops and Livestock Conference set for Dec. 7 at Ogallala: Using Cover Crops in Western Nebraska | TSLN.com

Western Sustainable Ag Crops and Livestock Conference set for Dec. 7 at Ogallala: Using Cover Crops in Western Nebraska

"Using cover crops in western Nebraska" is the theme for the Annual Western Sustainable Ag Crops and Livestock Conference set for Dec. 7 at Ogallala.

Speakers with decades of experience in sustainable, organic and holistic agricultural operations will share their expertise in using cover crops, as well as vegetable growing, grazing management, wheat breeding, and the impact of bees on food production. The conference will take place at the Ogallala Extended Campus Mid-Plains Community College, 512 East B Street, South, from 8:45 a.m. until 4 p.m.

Pre-registration is due by Nov. 27. To download a brochure and registration form, go to http://ckb.unl.edu. For more information about the conference or exhibitor booths, contact Extension Educator Karen DeBoer at the UNL Extension Office in Sidney; telephone 308-254-4455; email: kdeboer1@unl.edu.

Sponsors include University of Nebraska Extension, Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society (NSAS) and Organic Crop Improvement Association Nebraska Chapter 2.

Keynote speaker Dale Strickler's topic is "Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery: Looking to the Short Grass Prairie for Inspiration." Strickler, agronomist with Star Seed Kansas, will share his 25 years of experience working with farmers and ranchers in the Great Plains from the Gulf of Mexico to the Canadian border on forage systems and cover cropping.

Strickler started cover cropping on rented ground in 1988. He bought his first farm in 2000 and converted it from a furrow-irrigated corn farm to a subsurface drip irrigated, management-intensive grazing operation. Cover cropping has become an integral part of his operation, and that of many of the farmers he works with.

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Strickler will discuss how integrating cover crops into a cropping system can improve soil health and decrease input costs.

Other workshop topics at the Sustainable Ag conference include:

"The Nuts and Bolts of Using Cover Crops in Western Nebraska:" Strickler will describe how cover crops can be used to manage soil moisture, fix nitrogen, provide forage and increase soil organic matter, and which cover crops and management systems work best in semiarid areas.

"I Saw This on the Internet – Growing Vegetables for Profit through a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture):" Clint Andersen, owner of The Garden, of Lakeside, has CSA customers from Alliance, Chadron, Gordon and Rushville. He will discuss how he got started, failures from a greenhouse plan off the internet, to successes with their full-service CSA. He will talk about the challenges of selling in a rural area and his strategy of starting a low-risk CSA. Andersen raises quality tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers in his high tunnel greenhouse, which helps him make early spring sales. He is experimenting with potatoes, pumpkins and many other vegetables outside the high tunnel. He will talk about his low-pressure drip system and other tips.

"Growing Vegetables in a High Tunnel:" Karen Runkle, owner of Lil' Ladybug Gardens, will explain how successfully growing in a high tunnel on the plains of Nebraska creates its own unique challenges. She will talk about what has worked well; challenges that they have had and the changes they made; and things that they will never do again. She will also share their process for growing tomatoes from seed to market.

"Grazing Principles: Holistic Management and the Importance of Planned Grazing:" Ralph Tate, holistic management certified educator, will introduce holistic management and the importance of planned grazing. He will cover the significance of recovery time; the importance of paddocks in achieving the desired recovery time; and two different approaches to establishing a drought reserve.

"Update on Organic Wheat Quality Breeding:" Richard Little, University of Nebraska-Lincoln wheat breeder, will cover screening for common bunt, nitrogen use and baking quality. For baking quality, he will distinguish between white flour, stone-ground flour and reconstituted whole wheat flour. He will cover artisan sourdough baking tests and discuss breeding and bread-making methods for nutrient density. The talk will be supplemented by a recently published NebGuide "Selecting Winter Wheat Cultivars for Organic Production."

"Impact of Bees in the Environment and Food Production:" David Lott, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension educator, will teach about the value of pollination by bees in food production. He also will discuss sustaining bee habitats and diversifying landscapes to increase bee habitats, nectar and pollen plants.

• The afternoon agenda includes several farmer roundtable discussions:

• Grazing Management and Cover Crops, Ralph Tate and Dale Strickler

• Vegetable Production, Karen Runkle and Clint Andersen

• Organic Wheat Grant Research, Rich Little and Extension Educator Elizabeth Sarno.

–UNL Extension