Who would have thought that the best time of year to catch a field day would be in the beginning of August? The temperature when we started was in the low 80’s and by the time we finished it was in the mid 60’s. No bugs, no humidity… perfect. The turnout was also fantastic with over 60 in attendance.
The event was held at the Iowa State University Uthe Farm near Madrid, in partnership with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, and Iowa State University Research and Demonstration Farms. Attendees had the opportunity to tour four conservation practices installed at the farm.
Tom Isenhart, ISU Natural Resource Ecology and Management Professor kicked things off. He spoke about the origins of the saturated buffer practice and how incredibly effective they are at removing nitrates from the water.
“We raise the water table so that the water soaks into the black soil, where all the microbes are. We are sending water into the stream that is much cleaner than when we received it.” ~Tom Isenhart
An attendee asks, “Is that why they are called saturated buffers?” Tom replies, “Exactly!”
Michelle Soupir, ISU Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering Associate Professor, and Natasha Hoover, ISU Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering Research Associate, led the discussion on bioreactors. They talked about installation, costs and how they are experimenting with corn cob bioreactors.
“We have some pilot scale bioreactors that have been replaced with corn cobs. We know they work better, but there are still design questions about how long they last.” ~Michelle Soupir
They took a sample and used a nitrate test strip at the inlet and outlet of the bioreactor to see how effective it was at removing nitrate from the water. The results were quick – 25ppm at the inlet and 0ppm at the outlet.
Adam Janke, ISU Natural Resource Ecology and Management Assistant Professor and Extension Wildlife Specialist, and Sean McCoy, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship Environmental Specialist, talked about how important oxbows are to water quality as well as habitat.
“Oxbows are an attempt to slow the water down to allow denitrification to take place. However, there is a secondary benefit to oxbows and that is the aesthetics and the wildlife.” ~Adam Janke
When asked what his dream species would be in the oxbow, Janke replied that it would probably be the Topeka Shiner.
As the sun began to set, Seth Appelgate with ISU Monarch Research Team, spoke to the importance of reestablishing pollinator habitat. He suggested that there were many areas that people mow that could be converted with minimal cost.
“Pollinator habitat is actually cheaper over the long run because you save time and money mowing it. It’s more attractive, covers a larger area and has diverse stands that help with water infiltration. Plus, monarchs need these areas.” ~Seth Appelgate
If you’re interested in learning more about bioreactors, saturated buffers or other conservation practices, check out our upcoming field days to see if there will be one near you!