Using Perennials to Manage Water

ILFHeader(15-year)Did you know that for generations humans have used perennial vegetation to manage water for managing food supplies, constructing homes and more?

Thousands of years ago in Bolivia, humans created earthen berms covered in perennial vegetation to capture and store rain during the dry season. These shallow ponds were used for a variety of purposes including water storage, drainage and fish management.  Similarly, Mexico City was once a lake and the Aztecs used perennial vegetation to create a foundation on which to build their homes.

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Miscanthus (left) has been shown to improve water infiltration and protect soil. Photo credit: Emily Heaton

Today, perennial vegetation can continue to be used to manage water, as Emily Heaton highlighted at our third native perennial plantings workshop at Whiterock Conservancy. Her team is exploring using Miscanthus and other grasses in prairie potholes here in Iowa to create a biomass crop for harvest, improve water quality, and improve the management ease for the corn and soybean areas around the pothole. These benefits along with other benefits like supporting pollinator and other wildlife habitat, water quality and aesthetic beauty of using perennial plantings were discussed among the attendees.


A great resource that was shared with the group and we would like to share with anyone looking to establish native perennial vegetation is Plant Iowa Native hosted by the University of Northern Iowa. There you can find links to information about native plants, sources for seeds, plant materials, tips on landscaping, and incentive programs for conservation and preservation. Also find links to educational resources and organizations, as well as finding professional service providers in your area.

These workshops were made possible by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture through the North Central Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program.

Liz Juchems

September ILF Webinar: Bioreactors

On the latest webinar, the Iowa Learning Farms teamed up with the Midwest Ag Drainage Water Management series to discuss Bioreactors with Dr. Richard Cooke, Associate Professor in the Department of Agricultural Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Chad Ingels, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach watershed specialist and northeast Iowa farmer.  This dynamic duo gives us a real one-two punch of information about bioreactors!

Cooke offers an expert view of bioreactor design and theory.  He also gives us a look at some potential tools on the horizon that offer insights and projections about bioreactor use.  Ingels brings his experience in farm communities installing, trouble shooting, and managing active bioreactors to the discussion.

Between these two, you are sure you learn something new about Bioreactors!

As always, the webinar is available for viewing at your leisure. (And, of course, you can always catch on our other webinars here!)

-Ben Schrag