Podcast: Roger Wolf, Iowa Soybean Association

March 11, 2014

When you are talking about Iowa’s best, you have to talk to Roger Wolf. My guest in the latest episode of freshwater Talk podcast, Roger serves as the Director of Environmental Programs & Services of the Iowa Soybean Association and is the Founder and Executive Director of Agriculture’s Clean Water Alliance. He has more than 25 years of agriculture conservation resource management experience and is making big changes in farming and water efficiency by getting big agriculture to use big data.

Although Iowa has some of the richest, most productive land in the world, large production causes some environmental challenges, like excess nutrients in the basin’s waterways. Roger is helping to addressing recurring problems like the yearly Mississippi River’s 8,000 square-mile dead zone caused by excess nutrients, as well as drain water and infrastructure management and strategies for the next generation of agricultural producers.

To understand how he is making soybeans sexy, you have to understand the soybean market in Iowa. Iowa is one of the three ‘I states’ (including Illinois and Indiana) where soybean production is high. Iowa produces 17 percent of the nation’s soybean supply, averaging a yield of 500 million bushels of soybeans a year. And all soybean farmers are responsible for growing another big crop – corn, producing about 2.1 billion bushels of corn yearly thanks to Iowa’s rich, productive soil and ample rainfall. The sum of these bushels provides an annual $30 billion economic dividend to Iowa on a land base valued at $250 billion.

These are exciting times for Roger as he is helping big agriculture enter the digital age. In 2014, the Iowa Soybean Association worked directly with farmers to collect, assess and monitor data to measure performances on 32 projects. From weather, historical and satellite data to digital farm machinery and applied management, big data collection is realizing new possibilities and insights for decision makers. It’s improving the competitiveness, productivity, profitability, efficiency and natural resource management for farmers. As Roger describes, “It’s the blending of site-specific information with big data sets that enables more informed decision makings. This is where farmers are realizing new potentials that never existed before.”

“As I think about the future, conservation and environmental quality are key principles for business resilience. We need to take the principles of a legacy that has been built and realizing the next generation of opportunities.”

This statement is not only a great note to end on, but perfectly summarizes my lively discussion with Roger Wolf.

I’m thankful for Roger’s time and insights. Join us next time as we talk with National Geographic Explorer Jonathan Waterman. He will share tales of far-off lands, explaining what it means for us and our water. Tune in.

Yours in conservation,
Joe Whitworth

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