Conservation agronomy lead

(Photo: Iowa Soybean Association / Joclyn Bushman)

Meet Mike Gilman, ISA conservation agronomist lead

December 7, 2023 | Kriss Nelson

Conservation agronomists serve Iowa farmers and landowners by helping identify, plan and implement proven water quality and soil conservation practices and agronomic expertise to enhance productivity and profitability.

Introducing the Iowa Soybean Association’s (ISA) Conservation Agronomist Lead, Mike Gilman, we asked about his background and the future of ISA’s conservation agronomist program.

What led you to your position as ISA Conservation Agronomist Lead?

I grew up on a farm in southwest Iowa and have always been involved in agriculture. After receiving my degree in ag business at Iowa State University, I began working as a district seed manager for a seed company. Since then, I have worked in the ag retail space for a local cooperative, software sales and precision agriculture. When I was presented with the opportunity to be ISA’s conservation agronomy lead, I had no idea ISA had such a robust research department. I was intrigued to learn I could go out and make a difference for Iowa farmers and manage a team of conservation agronomists. Those factors combined excited me about the position where I can help make a difference on Iowa farms.

Who are ISA’s conservation agronomists?

We currently have four employed by ISA: Ryan Johnson in northwest Iowa, Joe Wuebker in west central Iowa, Evan Brehm in eastern Iowa and Ben Porepp serving central Iowa out of our Ankeny office. We are hiring an additional conservation agronomist and hope to have that position filled in the new year.  Along with the ISA Conservation Agronomists, we are working with a grant received by the Agriculture Clean Water Alliance as the lead partner in conjunction with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS).  In this grant, we will assist five retailers across the state to bring in their own conservation agronomists. We will partner with those retailers, their conservation agronomists, and the ISA conservation agronomists to make a truly collaborative network of conservation agronomists throughout the state to serve Iowa farmers. 

How do conservation agronomists help farmers?

Our conservation agronomists are also strong agronomically. The four employed at ISA have past retail agronomy sales experience. They have strong backgrounds in agronomic principles. They can talk to farmers about what they are doing on their farms agronomically and bring the expertise of conservation practices to help educate them—for example, cost share opportunities. Our conservation agronomists are very well-versed and understand how to apply for programs. There is a lot involved when you talk about conservation agronomy. It’s not as simple as implementing a conservation practice. It has to fit within the farming system, and it has to make sense agronomically and economically. We have the expertise to help Iowa soybean farmers in those areas.

Looking into 2024 and beyond, where do you see the ISA conservation agronomist program going?

We want to be there for the Iowa soybean farmer to help answer their questions regarding conservation, albeit in-field practices such as cover crops or edge-of-field practices such as bioreactors, saturated buffers, wetlands, and oxbows. We want to continue to educate the Iowa farmer on the importance of and grow those practices throughout the state. I talk about a network of conservation agronomists. When the conservation agronomists collaborate, assist and encourage each other, we create a little more buzz about conservation in the state. When we have some wins here and there, we continue to improve conservation across the landscape in Iowa.

Contact your nearest conservation agronomist through ISA’s team page or submit an interest form, and a team member will contact you.