Incorporating Prairie on the Farm – Field Day June 21st

ISU STRIPS and the UNI Tallgrass Prairie Center will demonstrate the practical use of prairie on a working farm at a field day that will be held 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 21 near Elkader.


Prairie Strips At Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge

Hosted by Roverud Family Farm, the field day will focus on integrating prairie into row crop fields for sediment and nutrient reduction.  The farm is located at 19575 Sandpit Rd, Elkader.

Other discussion topics include:

  • How to plant prairie on farms
  • Landowner insights
  • Maintenance and weed control
  • Water quality improvement
  • Benefits of prairie on the landscape

There will also be an opportunity to view infield prairie strips and take a field walk following the program.

There is no cost to attend this field day, which includes a complimentary meal with registration. Technical service providers, landowners, farm managers, conservation professionals, and those interested in learning more about the benefits of native vegetation are strongly encouraged to attend.

This event will be held rain or shine. Registration in advance is preferred for meal planning purposes and to be informed of location change in the event of inclement weather. To pre-register, contact Staci Mueller at (319) 273-3866 or by June 18.

For more information, go to or https:// .

Elkader_Field Day_Final 20180609


Extra! Extra! Field Day near Iowa City Planned for April 13

McNay Strips Field Day2In partnership with Rapid Creek Watershed Project, we are hosting a filter strips and soil health workshop on Thursday, April 13, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Morse Community Club near Iowa City.  We hope to see you there!

Field Day Agenda:

Tim Youngquist, discussing the Science-based Trials of Rowcrops Integrated with Prairie Strips (STRIPS) project where a small percentage of a field is planted into strips of perennial prairie plants to reduce soil erosion, water runoff, improve soil health and to create habitat for pollinators and wildlife.

Matt Berg, Johnson County Farm Service Agency Director, to lead a discussion on the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).

Adam Janke, Iowa State University Extension Wildlife Specialist and newest ILF team member, will talk about ways to incorporate wildlife habitat on the farm.

Wren Almitra, Rapid Creek Watershed Coordinator, with a project update.

SoilScan360Attendees are encouraged to bring their own soil samples for a free SOILSCAN 360 analysis by Johnson County NRCS staff during the event.

The field day will be held at the Morse Community Club located at 2542 Putnam St NE, Iowa City, IA. The workshop is free and open to the public, but reservations are suggested to ensure adequate space and food. Contact Liz Juchems at 515-294-5429 or

Liz Juchems

Chatting with Lisa Schulte Moore about Ecology and Biodiversity

Have you heard our newest Conservation Chat? Our 26th podcast in the Conversation Chat series features Dr. Lisa Schulte Moore, Iowa State University Professor in the Department of Natural Resource Ecology & Management. Iowa Learning Farms Director, Jacqueline Comito, speaks with Schulte Moore, who is co-founder of the STRIPs (Science-based Trails of Rowcrops Integrated with Prairie Strips) project. This project, based out of ISU with test strips in operation on the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge and various private lands, is the first scientific field study promoting the use of prairie strips on agricultural land as a water quality and conservation practice.

dscn1150c“I’ve always been, when it comes to science, an innovator,” Schulte Moore tells Comito. Schulte Moore worked as a post-doctoral associate for the U.S. Forest Service before coming to ISU thirteen years ago. Her research specialty is in historical ecology and forestry land management, with an emphasis on bird habitats and populations. While her educational background is highly focused on forest ecology, she has found herself more focused on prairie ecosystems and row crop agriculture through her work with the STRIPs project. She says this about the transition in her research focus:

A prairie isn’t that different from an old growth forest, it’s just that all the biomass is below the ground. But you can get something that looks, at least above ground, like a prairie much more quickly than you can get an old growth forest. And so in some ways it’s a little bit more satisfying because I can see more of my impact in my lifetime.

Schulte Moore tells Comito about not only the dramatic water quality benefits from converting 10-20% of agricultural land into prairie, but the increase in wildlife biodiversity and its benefits as well. She says the results from just the first five years of scientific data on twelve experimental catchments at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge are unprecedented: a 7-fold increase in native birds and insects, a 4-fold increase in the total abundance of insects (including a 3.47-fold increase in native pollinators), and a 15% increase in natural enemies (insects that feed on crop pests).

Why should we care about having greater biodiversity of wildlife in our agricultural lands? Schulte Moore tells us that birds, for example, offer humans many benefits—they act as a “canary” for measuring the health of an ecosystem: the more bird biodiversity, the healthier and more balanced the surrounding ecosystem. Birds control insect pests by preying on insect populations, and also eat weed seeds in cropland. And many humans enjoy observing and feeding different types of birds.

Are you a farmer who is interested in learning more about how to put prairie strips onto your land? Are you interested in learning more about the benefits of adding strips to row crops, the funding and costs, and possibilities for implementing prairie strips in new locations on your land in the future? Or maybe you are curious about Dr. Schulte Moore’s self-affirmed obsession with fire, or her special talent related to ornithology. If any of these things spark your interest, then this Conservation Chat is right up your alley. Click on the image below to be taken to the Conservation Chat with Dr. Lisa Schulte Moore!


Brandy Case Haub

A Cy-Hawk Collaboration on Conservation

With the entire state of Iowa picking sides as the Cyclones and Hawkeyes meet on the gridiron tomorrow, the Iowa Learning Farms team helped to showcase an outstanding collaboration between the two “teams” with a field day last evening at the Eastern Iowa Airport in Cedar Rapids!

dscn1158cIt was an absolutely beautiful evening, with 70 people in attendance to learn about how the Eastern Iowa Airport is implementing a number of innovative conservation practices on its land, in collaboration with the University of Iowa’s Biomass Fuel Project and Iowa State University’s STRIPS project. Our field day was situated right between the field sites for these two projects, and it was great to see the support of the airport, the City of Cedar Rapids, and the two universities – a truly collaborative effort, and a definite win for conservation!

Cedar Rapids mayor Ron Corbett kicked things off, emphasizing the power of collective action for good – whether it be through sandbagging to save the City of Cedar Rapids’ final drinking water well in the floods of 2008, or working together on efforts to implement unique conservation practices on the ground to benefit both water quality and water quantity.

ISU’s Emily Heaton then jumped right in to lead a discussion and answer people’s questions about the use of giant miscanthus as a potential bioenergy crop. Giant miscanthus has been planted on 63 acres of the airport’s property, and is being harvested for use in the University of Iowa’s Biomass Fuel Project. Several area farmers are also growing miscanthus to supply the U of I with this feedstock.



dscn1139cField day attendees had many questions for Heaton about planting, growing, and harvesting the miscanthus – see a sampling of the outstanding questions below!

  • What are the water quality benefits (nutrient reductions) with miscanthus?
  • What is the water use of miscanthus? Does it reduce runoff?
  • What are the habitat/wildlife benefits of growing miscanthus?
  • How long does miscanthus remain viable?
  • Do you need to harvest it annually?
  • How does miscanthus tolerate extemes – flood and drought?
  • What are the production costs of miscanthus – seed, fertility program, etc.?
  • What does it do for the character of the soil?
  • When is the best planting window for miscanthus?
  • How does miscanthus compare in terms of energy content to other fuel sources?
  • How much is it worth when you harvest it?
  • If I want to plant some of this miscanthus on my farm, where do I get seed?

dscn1150cISU’s Lisa Schulte Moore was up next, highlighting the other “on the ground” practice at our field day site – prairie strips!  The idea behind prairie strips is to transition approximately 10% of a row cropped landscape to strips of perennial prairie vegetation, reaping benefits for soil health, water quality, and biodiversity. Schulte Moore emphasized the important steps in establishing and maintaining the prairie strips, and with proper care, the amazing disproportionate benefits these strips can offer.

We also heard from the University of Iowa’s Ingrid Gronstal-Anderson and Ben Anderson, talking about the University of Iowa’s sustainability goals with these projects and how the U of I power plant is working to integrate different bioenergy feedstocks into their energy stream.

dscn1175cFinally, Eastern Iowa Airport Director Marty Lenss wrapped things up by praising the collaborative nature of this work, just as the sun was setting and giving us a spectacular show across the western horizon. No matter which side you’ll be cheering for in tomorrow’s football game, this is one outstanding collaboration that we can all celebrate!

Ann Staudt


Great Interest in Prairie Strips at the McNay Research Farm

McNay Strips Field Day2

Prairie strips installed at the McNay Research Farm near Chariton.

Last night kicked off the first of our STRIPS field days this month at the McNay Memorial Research and Demonstration Farm near Chariton.  There was a great turnout and good discussion about how prairie strips and cover crops can help meet the goals laid out by the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy. By converting just 10% of a crop-field to diverse, native perennials, farmers and landowners can reduce the amount of soil leaving their fields by 90% and the amount of nitrogen leaving their fields through surface runoff by up to 85%. Prairie strips also provide potential habitat for biodiversity, including pollinators and other beneficial insects.

McNay Strips Field Day1

Tim Youngquist discusses the prairie strips program on June 16, 2015.

Gary Van Ryswyk, farm manager at the Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge, kicked off the field day by sharing his experiences managing the prairie strips installed at the Refuge in 2007 and fielding questions from the audience.  Tim Youngquist, STRIPS Farmer Liaison, then led the group outside to the strips installed on the farm and discussed how they seeded, managed and resources for technical and financial assistance.  With the stiff stemmed prairie plants, the flow of water from rainstorms is slowed, encouraging infiltration and reducing soil movement out of the field.  As Tim put it, “the water is walking off land instead of running.”

There are two more opportunities to attend a strips field day and we hope to see you there! Click the links below to read the press release for more information about the field days.

June 18, 5:30-7:30pm
Dick and Diana Sloan farm
3046 Harrison Ave., Rowley

June 23, 5:30-7:30 pm
Donna Buell farm
Southeast corner of Harvest Ave. and D15, northeast of Holstein

Each field day wraps up with a complimentary meal and fellowship.  All are free and open to the public.

Contact ILF to let us know which field day you are attending and the number of guests, and we’ll be glad to feed you!  You can reach us by phone 515-294-8912 or email:

Visit the STRIPS website for more information.

Liz Juchems

Celebrate National Pollinators Week at a STRIPS field day!

When I was a teenager, my mother did something unconventional with the lawn.  She took a small area and replanted it with native prairie. I remember really loving that stretch of lawn. It was beautiful, it was unusual, and (perhaps most compelling to a teenager) it made it easier to mow!  As an adult, however, I appreciate something else about that small stretch of reclaimed prairie: the pollinators.


(Photo by Danny Akright)

Pollinators help strengthen crop yields.  In the US, pollinators help produce nearly 20 billion dollars with of products.  80% of the world’s flowering plants rely upon pollinators to thrive.  The plain fact is that we need our pollinators!  But our pollinators are under a lot of pressure.  Pesticides, pathogens, and loss of habitat are all reasons that their populations are in decline.  I see now that my mother gave them a better chance to survive and even thrive, just by planting a little bit of prairie.

It is National Pollinators Week and this week we hope to give our bees, birds, butterflies, and bats a little extra appreciation!  Iowa Learning Farms is hosting several field days talking about the STRIPS project.  STRIPS stands for Science-based Trials of Rowcrops Integrated with Prairie Strips, but you might just think of it as similar to what my mother did with our lawn.  The STRIPS project strategically plants perennial prairie on 10% of a field.  The results include reduced soil erosion and nutrient loss as well as increased habitat for pollinators!

This National Pollinators week, we hope to see you at one of the upcoming STRIPS field days!  Farmers, landowners, and STRIPS project experts are scheduled to talk and answer questions.  Cover crop experts and farmers using them will be on the agenda as well.  On the 18th, one of the speakers will be Iowa State University’s Dr. Mary Harris who will talk specifically about the pollinators!

June 16, 5:30-7:30 pm
McNay Research and Demonstration Farm
45249 170th Ave., Chariton

June 18, 5:30-7:30 pm
Dick and Diana Sloan farm
3046 Harrison Ave., Rowley

June 23, 5:30-7:30 pm
Donna Buell farm
Southeast corner of Harvest Ave. and D15, northeast of Holstein

Each field day wraps up with a complimentary meal and fellowship.  All are free and open to the public.

Contact ILF to let us know which field day you are attending and the number of guests, and we’ll be glad to feed you!  You can reach us by phone 515-294-8912 or email:

Visit the STRIPS website for more information.

-Ben Schrag