Practical Farmers of Iowa offers February webinars on growing small grains

Oats, rye and others are the focus of the free ‘winter farminar series’ on Tuesday nights in February

For Release: January 29, 2015

AMES, Iowa — Wintertime in Iowa allows farmers a brief period to slow down, reflect on the previous year, and plan for the next.  As January comes to an end planting still seems far away, but farmers who intend to plant small grains are closer to being in their fields than many realize. Practical Farmers of Iowa is hosting a series of online farminars beginning February 3rd for those who are interested in learning the benefits and best practices for growing small grains.

Small grain crops, which grow earlier in the growing season than corn and soybeans, can help to hold the soil in place in the spring and also disrupt the life cycles of common pests and weeds. Adding a small grain to a crop rotation can reduce a cropping system’s reliance on synthetic fertilizers and chemical and fossil fuel inputs. Fewer inputs means lower costs of production, while increased cash crop diversity makes a farm more resilient in the face of economic shocks and market volatility.

The small grains farminar series begins February 3rd with “Setting Up Fall and Spring Small Grain Production for Success,” continues on February 10th with “Oats for Iowa: Variety Selection and Agronomic Production Tips,” and concludes with “Cereal Rye: Stand Evaluation and Seed Selection” on February 17th. See below for complete farminar and speaker descriptions.

The small grains presentations are part of a free webinar series offered each winter to help farmers learn about business and production issues that matter to them from the convenience of their homes. The interactive webinars – called farminars – occur each Tuesday from 7-8:30 p.m. CST through March 31. They are led by farmers, are open to everyone and allow participants to ask questions of presenters in real-time. Any computer with an Internet connection may be used to participate.

To participate: Go to, click the link to connect and sign in as “Guest.” All upcoming farminars, as well as archives of past farminars, are also available at this link.

Practical Farmers of Iowa’s 2015 winter farminars are made possible with funding from Cedar Tree Foundation, Ceres Trust, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, National Resources Conservation Service, McKnight Foundation and Walton Family Foundation.


Founded in 1985, Practical Farmers of Iowa is an open, supportive and diverse organization of farmers and friends of farmers that seeks to strengthen farms and communities through farmer-led investigation and information-sharing. Farmers in our network produce corn, soybeans,beef cattle, hay, fruits and vegetables, and more. For additionalinformation, call (515) 232-5661 or visit


Steve Carlson | Practical Farmers of Iowa | (515) 232-5661 |


February Small Grains Farminar Line-up

1).    Feb. 3 – “Setting Up Fall and Spring Small Grain Production for Success” – Bill Frederick, Dusty Farnsworth and David Weisberger

Join experienced farmer Bill Frederick and beginning farmer Dustin Farnsworth as they share their experiences with growing small grains as part of the rotation on their Iowa farms. Small grains researcher David Weisberger will then share insights he gained from talking with organic oat producers across the state. This farminar will focus on the practical aspects of successful small grains: field preparation, plant populations and planter settings, stand assessment and harvest tactics.

  • Bill Frederick runs an integrated crop and livestock operation with his family near Jefferson, Iowa, and is chairman of the Greene County Soil and Water Conservation District. Bill’s experience with small grains includes producing oats, wheat and rye for both grain production and as fodder for livestock.
  • Dustin Farnsworth is a beginning farmer who recently made the move to his family’s farm near Adel, Iowa. Dustin is building an integrated crop and livestock operation that includes row crops, small grains and forage in rotation, and he has recently added beef cattle and pastured pork production.
  • David Weisberger is a graduate student in Agronomy and Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University with a strong interest in organic small grain production. David’s degree work includes working with organic oat farmers across Iowa to establish best management practices.

2).   Feb. 10 – “Oats for Iowa: Variety Selection and Agronomic Production Tips” – Bruce Roskens and Darren Fehr

Iowa farmers have long grown oats for feed and food markets. Although oat acres have decreased dramatically since the 1960s, reduced corn and soybean prices have farmers looking to put oats back into the rotation because of their economic competitiveness. But what varieties and production methods are best for oats in 2015? Learn more about what oat varieties to select – including new varieties that are available – improved production methods, and agronomic decisions to ensure the best yields and quality.

  • Bruce Roskens is the director of crop sciences for Grain Millers, Inc. Bruce grew up on a family farm and has business experience that includes purchasing commodities and ingredients; mill feed sales; crop research and development; breeding program administration; grain milling; and grain quality education and development programs.
  • Darren Fehr farms near Plover, Iowa, with his wife, Nora, and their five children. Together, they farm 1,000 acres of certified organic corn, soybeans, oats, peas and alfalfa. Their farm was first certified in 1998.

3).   Feb. 17 – “Cereal Rye: Stand Evaluation and Seed Selection” – Greg Roth and Tim Sieren

Learn management tactics critical to success with cereal rye. Greg Roth of Penn State University will discuss his experiences and research with rye, including new hybrid rye originally developed in Europe that is yielding well in U.S. trials. Iowa farmer Tim Sieren will share some of his experiences – both good and bad – growing cereal rye for seed. He will also discuss some of the equipment he uses for seeding, harvesting, storage and seed cleaning.

  • Greg Roth is a professor in the Department of Plant Science at Penn State University. As the extension grain crops specialist, he develops educational programs for extension agents, agribusiness groups and producers.
  • Tim Sieren runs a small, diversified family farm in southeastern Iowa raising corn, soybeans, hogs, cattle and small grains. He added cereal rye into the cropping system as an additional source of forage for his cattle, and after seeing the soil benefits started using it as a cover crop between no-till soybeans and corn.