The Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy Measurement Project: Tracking Progress Towards Iowa’s Water Quality Goals

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Today at noon, Laurie Nowatzke, Measurement Coordinator for the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy at Iowa State University, discussed the progress and challenges of Iowa’s water quality improvement efforts.

Nowatzke_photo thumbnailThe webinar covered how progress towards the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy (NRS) is measured, how much progress has been made and what challenges remain. The NRS is a science-based strategy to reduce nutrients in surface water from both point and nonpoint sources. Nowatzke shared a brief history of the measurement tracking associated with the NRS and then discussed the recently published 2017-2018 Annual Progress Report.

She explained how the NRS uses a logic model framework to track quantifiable change in inputs, the human dimension, land use and water quality. The 2017-2018 Annual Progress Report shows an increase in funding for conservation practices and programs, mostly due to an increase in Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) rental payments. It also shows an increase in outreach and education events. Farmer attitudes towards and awareness of the conservation efforts is being measured through a five year survey. Summaries of the survey results for two HUC6 watersheds are available in the report.

INRS Logic Model

Image from the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy: 2017-2018 Annual Progress Report

Nowatzke also described how conservation practices are tracked, including the tracking of CRP land retirement, cover crop use, and the installation of bioreactors and saturated buffers. Water quality progress is assessed using a two-pronged approach of measuring nutrient concentrations in surface waters and modeling nutrient loss reductions that are associated with different conservation practices.

To learn more about how progress towards meeting the NRS goals is measured, how much progress has been made and the challenges that remain, watch the recorded webinar!

Join us next month, on Wednesday, August 21 at noon, when Jacqueline Comito, Iowa Learning Farms Program Director, will present an Iowa Learning Farms webinar titled “15 Years of Iowa Learning Farms”.

Hilary Pierce

July 17 Webinar: The Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy Measurement Project: Tracking Progress Towards Iowa’s Water Quality Goals

Join us on Wednesday, July 17 at noon, when Iowa Learning Farms will host a webinar about the progress towards Iowa’s water quality goals.

Nowatzke_photo thumbnailHow many acres of cover crops are planted each year in Iowa? Are extended rotations and perennials increasing? Laurie Nowatzke, Measurement Coordinator for the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy at Iowa State University, will discuss the progress and challenges of Iowa’s water quality improvement efforts by addressing these questions and others. Find out how progress is measured, where to find the data, and what questions remain about Iowa’s water quality improvement.

“Water quality challenges are on the minds of many Iowans. In this webinar, I hope to shed light on where we’re currently seeing progress in conservation practice adoption and where there are still challenges,” said Nowatzke. She hopes that webinar attendees will understand how conservation practice adoption in Iowa is tracked, the “bright spots” and challenges of water quality progress, and where to find data and information about Iowa’s water quality improvement efforts.

A Certified Crop Adviser board approved continuing education unit (CEU) is available for those who are able to watch the live webinar. Information for submitting your CCA/CPAg/CPSS/CPSC number to earn the credit will be provided at the end of the presentation.

Don’t miss this webinar!
DATE: Wednesday, July 17, 2019
TIME: 12:00 p.m.
HOW TO PARTICIPATE: visit www.iowalearningfarms.org/page/webinars and click the link to join the webinar

More information about this webinar is available at our website. If you can’t watch the webinar live, an archived version will be available on our website:
https://www.iowalearningfarms.org/page/webinars.

Hilary Pierce

A Conservation Chat with Ingrid Gronstal Anderson and Jennifer Terry

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On the latest episode of the Conservation Chat, host Jacqueline Comito discussed the Iowa Environmental Council with Ingrid Gronstal Anderson and Jennifer Terry. Gronstal Anderson is the new Water Program Director for the Iowa Environmental Council and Terry is the Executive Director and they chatted about how the Iowa Environmental Council is striving toward cleaner water for all Iowans to enjoy.

Ingrid Gronstal Anderson

Ingrid Gronstal Anderson, photo credit: Iowa Environmental Council

Gronstal Anderson and Terry talked about how the Iowa Environmental Council is a watchdog that holds government agencies accountable on behalf of Iowans. That accountability is important when it comes to natural resources because of the relationship between natural resources and public health, such as in the case of regulations for drinking water quality. They stated the importance of working with partners from diverse sectors at the Council.

The talk then turned to the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy and the Clean Water Act.

“We also would like to see the Clean Water Act adhered to more stringently here in Iowa. In terms of using our beaches and protecting drinking water sources and our lakes, its imperative that we have better enforcement in Iowa of the Clean Water Act.” – Terry 

Jennifer Terry

Jennifer Terry, photo credit: Iowa Environmental Council

They discussed the importance of showing progress toward our water quality goals and the struggle against the lack of urgency that many feel regarding adoption of conservation practices. Although anti-regulation sentiment is common, Gronstal Anderson and Terry talked about how not only would jobs and industries follow regulation, but that it would help to provide a level playing field for farmers across the state.

To hear the rest of the chat and learn more about the work the Iowa Environmental Council does, listen to the podcast here!

Hilary Pierce

Drainage Water Recycling: An Emerging Conservation Drainage Practice

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On Wednesday, during an Iowa Learning Farms webinar, Chris Hay, Senior Environmental Scientist at the Iowa Soybean Association, discussed current drainage water recycling research.

Drainage water recycling is a conservation practice during which subsurface drainage water is captured for use as supplemental irrigation water in the summer. In addition to the irrigation benefit, drainage water recycling reduces nitrogen and phosphorus loss by reusing the water in the field.

Hay described drainage water recycling as a multiple “win-win” scenario, where the farmer is able to address excess water in the spring and fall through drainage, but also during dry periods in the summer by using the captured drainage water as supplemental irrigation. The practice can also prevent loss of nutrients downstream and captures water containing both nitrogen and phosphorus, while many other other conservation practices only address one nutrient of concern. The practice can also lead to a flood peak reduction and have positive impacts on downstream water quantity.

Current research projects at sites around the Midwest have been looking at yield increases with the supplemental irrigation that drainage water recycling supplies and have found that during dry years they saw a 50% corn yield increase and a 29% soybean yield increase. Hay stated that although the idea of drainage water recycling is not new, it is an emerging conservation practice that has attracted more attention recently and that more research is needed to understand the benefits and economics. To learn more the ongoing research, visit the Transforming Drainage website.

To learn more about this topic, watch the full webinar here!

Join us next month, on Wednesday, July 17 at noon, when Laurie Nowatzke, Measurement Coordinator for the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy at Iowa State University, will present an Iowa Learning Farms webinar titled “The Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy Measurement Project: Tracking Progress Towards Iowa’s Water Quality Goals”.

Hilary Pierce

June 19 Webinar: Drainage Water Recycling: An Emerging Conservation Drainage Practice

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Join us on Wednesday, June 19 at noon, when Iowa Learning Farms will host a webinar about drainage water recycling.

Drainage water recycling is a conservation practice during which subsurface drainage water is captured for use as supplemental irrigation water in the summer. In addition to the irrigation benefit, drainage water recycling reduces nitrogen and phosphorus loss by reusing the water in the field. Chris Hay, Senior Environmental Scientist at the Iowa Soybean Association, will discuss current drainage water recycling research.

Chris Hay“Drainage water recycling is a practice with multiple potential win-wins: crop production and downstream water quality, nitrogen and phosphorus loss reduction, water quality and water quantity,” said Hay. He hopes that webinar attendees will understand that drainage water has exciting potential for both crop production and water quality, but that more research is needed–especially on the economics–before widespread implementation is realistic.

Don’t miss this webinar!
DATE: Wednesday, June 19, 2019
TIME: 12:00 p.m.
HOW TO PARTICIPATE: visit www.iowalearningfarms.org/page/webinars and click the link to join the webinar

More information about this webinar is available at our website. If you can’t watch the webinar live, an archived version will be available on our website:
https://www.iowalearningfarms.org/page/webinars.

Hilary Pierce

The Iowa Watershed Academy

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Jamie Benning | Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Water Quality Program Manager

Watershed coordinators are key players in improving water quality in Iowa by providing farmers and landowners technical and financial assistance to implement soil health and water quality improvement practices on their land.  Prior to the initiation of the Iowa Watershed Academy by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach (ISUEO), there were no comprehensive training events focused to develop the skills and technical knowledge of watershed coordinators in the state.

To better understand the skill areas, topics, subtopics, resource needs, and format of a comprehensive training, ISUEO facilitated a roundtable discussion in December 2014. The group included state and federal agency, agricultural, conservation, and environmental organization representatives. In early 2015, watershed coordinators provided feedback on the topics and subtopics generated at the roundtable and were asked to rank them in order of their needs and interests.

Through this needs assessment process and a successful grant from the Natural Resources Conservation Service and North Central SARE, the first academy was held in May 2016.  With continued funding from NRCS, NC SARE, and sponsorships and in-kind contributions from Soil and Water Conservation Society, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Conservation Learning Group and the Iowa Watershed Approach projects, two Watershed Academy sessions have been held each year.  A highlight of topics addressed through interactive and hands on training during the seven academies include cover crop management, conservation sales strategies, grant writing, preparing for media interviews, project management, water monitoring, wildlife habitat value of conservation and water quality practices, managing pasture for improved water quality

The spring 2019 Iowa Watershed Academy training event was held May 14-15, at the ISU Field Extension Education Lab farm near Boone. This event featured nitrogen management and nitrogen application decision tools, manure management and manure application distribution and calibration methods, reaching women and non-operator landowners, and successful methods and tools for field day and event outreach.

“It’s beneficial to have trainings like this so we can meet with other coordinators and exchange struggles and ideas.”

Pre and post self-assessments are used to evaluate change in knowledge and self-efficacy after each academy, selecting a level of knowledge from 1- minimal knowledge of the indicator and not confident of their skills related to the topic to 4-exemplary indicating a high level of knowledge and confidence applying the skills in the topic area.  On average, the coordinators have identified their pre-academy skills in the needs improvement category, and after the academy, their skills improve to the proficient category.

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“You got my mind thinking of other ways to really look at my watershed and maybe expand my focus area.”

Qualitative questions have also indicated that the watershed coordinators value the Iowa Watershed Academy, particularly with sessions that include hands-on in-field training.  Coordinators indicate that they would recommend that the training continue and the two event per year format held at locations that provide hands-on learning opportunities, time to dig in to important topics through dialogue with the speakers and other coordinators.

“Overall, an amazing training opportunity”

The Watershed Academy will continue each spring and fall and has already begun to address specialized skills and topics including the Agricultural Conservation Planning Framework and Reach Middle Adopters with partners from Iowa and the North Central Region.  To stay up to date on future Iowa Watershed Academy events, contact Jamie Benning  to join the mailing list.

Jamie Benning

A Conservation Chat with Pat Boddy

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Pat Boddy

In this brand new episode of the Conservation Chat, host Jacqueline Comito sat down with Pat Boddy, who is an environmental engineer, water resources expert, accomplished harpist and respected community leader. Boddy recently received the 2019 Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute’s A. Arthur Davis Community Leadership Award for the impact that her work in the fields of journalism, the environment, engineering and advocacy have had across the state of Iowa. She also finds the time to host her own podcast, 900Views – check it out here!

During her conversation with Comito, Boddy explained what led her to pursue a career in engineering and water resources, and her particular passion for water quality. Boddy described joyful memories of times spent in or around water and the importance of water for sustaining life.

“Water is soothing, it’s poetic, it’s musical.” – Pat Boddy

They went on to talk about how dirty water has become normalized for many Iowans, who have not seen anything better in their lifetimes, and the contributions of agriculture and urban areas to water quality issues. The conversation then turned what role cities can play in Iowa’s water quality, with Boddy suggesting that communities need to be more proactive as the cities grow by establishing guidelines to protect the environment before development.

Throughout the conversation, Boddy emphasized the importance of people working together. When asked what she has learned through her work in watersheds, Boddy said that to achieve water quality goals it is important to bring together urban and rural residents, in order to foster understanding and allow the residents to learn from one another. The conversation also included a discussion of the challenges that Iowan agricultural producers face when when they are asked to learn how to do things differently and the importance of understanding climate.

Listen to the podcast!

Hilary Pierce