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GETTING STARTED: To help landlords and tenants begin the conversation of adding conservation, Iowa Learning Farms has created a new publication series. It features talking points and relevant research findings about a variety of soil and water conservation practices.

‘Talking to Your Tenant’ new Iowa Learning Farms series

Publications can help landlords and tenants begin the conversation about adding conservation to farmland.

Caring for Iowa’s farmland requires many decisions to be made that impact the future generation’s ability to best use the land for agricultural production. To help begin the conversation between landlord and tenant, Iowa Learning Farms has created a new publication series with talking points and relevant research findings about a variety of conservation practices.

“A large number of Iowa cropland acres are rented every year — nearly 50% according to recent surveys. These rented acres are greatly influenced by the tenant who farms them,” notes Mark Licht, an Iowa State University Extension agronomist. He is also an Iowa Learning Farms adviser, who cultivated the idea of the series.

“Landowners are integral in the decision-making process, from developing a leasing structure and understanding farming practices to being considerate of practice costs and profitability,” says Licht. “With emphasis being placed on nutrient loss reduction and practices ranging from in-field to land-use changes, it’s imperative for landowners and tenants to have conversations about reaching production, profitability and environmental goals. These conversations can lead to improvements of soil health and water quality, along with meeting productivity and profitability goals.”

As land is passed from one generation to another, or is sold, it can lead to uncertainty for tenants and landowners alike.

Free series on ILF website
“We developed this series of publications in response to questions we heard from landowners. They wanted to understand how conservation practices such as strip tillage and cover crops would affect both their land and the tenant’s bottom line before asking tenants to add these practices to their management plans,” says Jacqueline Comito, Iowa Learning Farms director. “While the name of the series is ‘Talking to Your Tenant,’ the reverse is also true. We think tenants will find the series also helpful as they educate their landowners on implementing these important practices.”

The series addresses in-field practices like cover crops, no-till and strip tillage, and edge-of-field practices, such as denitrifying bioreactors and wetlands. If you have ideas for future topics for this series, contact Liz Juchems at or call 515-294-5429. The four-part series, along with other print and video resources, is available free at Copies will also be available at ILF field days and workshops, or mailed upon request.

Begin a discussion
Discussing a new conservation practice with your tenant or landlord can be challenging. ILF’s newest publication series evolved from listening to landowners and their desire to know how adopting conservation would affect both them and their tenants. To help begin those conversations, key members of the ILF staff created talking points based on relevant research findings about specific conservation practices.

Starting with inquiries from landowners, ILF researched answers to questions like:
Does transitioning to no-tillage require new machinery? No. Most planters can be adjusted for use in a no-tillage system.
How do cover crops impact crop yields? Farmers reported that properly managed cover crops had little to no negative effect on corn and soybean yield (and actually increased soybean yield in seven site-years and corn yield in two site-years).

The series is now available in print and online. If there are practices you think should be covered or questions answered, contact Liz Juchems at, or call 515-294-5429.

Source: Iowa Learning Farms

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