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APR: Spring 2021 Articles

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Cover Crop Cost-Share Programs in Iowa: Do They Work?

Wendiam Sawadgo and Alejandro Plastina
Farmers often use cover crops for their soil health benefits. However, the benefits of cover crops go beyond the farm, as they have been shown to reduce nutrient pollution from fields to waterways through leaching or runoff. As such, cover crops have been extensively promoted as a way to improve Iowa’s water quality. However, as of 2017, cover crops were used on only 4% of Iowa cropland.

China’s Changing Population Structure and its Implications for US Agricultural Exports

Xi He and Wendong Zhang
On May 11, 2021, China released the findings from its seventh national population census, which shows that its population totaled 1.41 billion in 2020 with an average annual growth rate of 0.053% since 2010, the lowest ten-year growth rate since its first population census in 1953. China’s population structure is also changing—a growing share of residents are older than 65 and the birth rate is declining. Specifically, China’s total new births sharply declined by around 18%, from 14.65 million in 2019 to 12 million in 2020, despite some skepticism that the birth rates might be overreported and the death rates may be underreported. On May 31, 2021, China announced that it will allow couples to have up to three children and will provide supportive measures to improve its population structure and to actively cope with an aging population after scrapping its decades-old one-child policy and adopting a two-child policy in 2016.

Iowa’s Role in US Agriculture

Lee Schulz and Chad Hart
While 2020 was a challenging year in many aspects, several features of Iowa agriculture remained consistent. Iowa continues to lead the nation in numerous agricultural production categories—corn and soybean production was robust despite the combined impacts of the drought and the derecho and meat production continued to build despite issues in processing capacity. The strength in Iowa’s agricultural production base is expected to extend through 2021.

The Origins of Talent in Rural and Urban Iowa

John Winters
A large majority of Iowa residents and talented individuals are homegrown. This is especially true among self-employed workers, non-metropolitan residents, and self-employed persons in agriculture, which highlights the importance of nurturing talent in Iowa, especially for non-metropolitan areas and the agriculture sector. Furthermore, many other states share a similar dependence on homegrown talent, and thus are wise to nurture that talent.

Will Iowa Farmland Values Continue to Rise?

Wendong Zhang
The farmland market and the agricultural economy have seen a remarkable ride over the past year—the world shut down in early 2020 with unprecedented uncertainty and anxiety; however, the agricultural commodity markets and the land market have gained noticeable strength since fall 2020. Record government support, historically low interest rates, and surging agricultural exports led to a near-10% hike in farmland values for almost all Midwestern states.

Potential Adoption of Managed Aquifer Recharge Systems in the Corn Belt Region

Philip Gassman and Adriana Valcu-Lisman
Managed aquifer recharge (MAR) is a technique for improving groundwater recharge and maintaining aquifer levels to support water storage for water treatment systems and irrigation for agricultural production or other water needs. MAR is an effective buffer against future fluctuations in water demand, drought, and climate change. MAR systems include bank filtration, infiltration ponds/galleries, percolation tanks, and aquifer storage and recovery wells. In the United States, MAR system use has increased for several reasons including water shortages, greater need for reliable seasonal water sources, and favorable costs. Dillon et al. report that average annual total MAR volume in the United States was 2,569 million cubic meters/year in 2015. However, wider adoption of MAR systems has been hindered by uncertainty in determining appropriate site conditions and MAR method, lack of economic data, and legal, policy, and/or environmental issues.