Cover Crops: One Piece of the Puzzle in CLL Project

Cover crops are an important tool for helping keep soil, nitrogen and phosphorus in the field – instead of our water bodies. Because they grow outside the typical corn/soybean growing season, cover crops help reduce soil erosion and take up nutrients that could otherwise leave the field. It is also the most popular practice among our Conservation Learning Lab (CLL) farmer partners.

The CLL project is studying the impact of conservation practices implementation at the watershed scale in Floyd and Story County.  The conservation planning process within the watersheds has yielded cover crop contract enrollment of 675 acres and 1,081 acres, respectively, starting this fall covering 50-68% of the crop acres within the watershed.

Cover_crop_April_Berger_FarmThe farmer partners chose to seed either winter cereal rye and oats.  These grass species are easy to establish, relatively inexpensive and are the leading biomass producers in our cover crop research projects – keeping that soil covered (reducing the loss of phosphorus) and taking up nitrogen.

The Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy team reviewed cover crop research results from across Iowa and the Midwest and found that cereal rye and oats reduced nitrogen loss by 31% and 29%, respectively.  Similarly, the reduction of phosphorus when adding cereal rye is about 29%, primarily as a result of reduced soil erosion. According to our RUSLE2 calculations, a cereal rye cover crop added to a no-till system can reduce soil erosion by 30-80% and can be even larger when transitioning from a conservation tillage system.

Be sure to keep checking back as we will be providing updates as the cover crops are seeded this fall!

The project is funded by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) and the United States Department of Agriculture – Natural Resources Conservation Services (USDA-NRCS) of Iowa.

Water quality meets group therapy

A new video produced by Water Rocks! seeks to illuminate the interwoven relationships between different pollutants that can contribute to water quality challenges here in Iowa (and beyond). Through science, emotional appeals, personal drama, and most of all, humor!, the Mississippi River Basin Watershed Support Group video explores the subtleties and complexities related to the interactions of water, soil, and pollutants in our environment.

The setting: A group therapy session.
The group facilitator: BI (biological indicator for water quality).
The support group participants: soil, phosphorus, nitrogen, arsenic, mercury, manure, bacteria, and caffeine.

Here are a few sneak peaks:

SupportGroup-01 SupportGroup-02 SupportGroup-03 SupportGroup-04

The Mississippi River Basin Watershed Support Group video was recently honored at the Iowa Motion Picture Association Awards ceremony, receiving awards in the following categories:

Direction (Medium Form)
Editing (Long Form)
Corporate Training
Best Actress (BI/group facilitator)
Art Direction

This fabulous video is not to be missed!  The cinematography is beautifully done and the characters are quite entertaining… if you’re anything like me, you’re going to watch it several times to catch all of the quirky humor and subtleties in the relationships happening on-screen.

Ann Staudt