August 5 Webinar: Scaling up Oxbow Wetland Restorations for Multiple Benefits

Iowa Learning Farms will host a webinar on Wednesday, August 5 at noon about the benefits of restoring oxbow wetlands.

Learn more about this promising edge-of-field conservation practice, it’s many benefits, potential funding pools, and other exciting up-to-date news on the gaining momentum and enthusiasm around oxbows! Karen Wilke, Iowa Freshwater Specialist & Boone River Project Director for The Nature Conservancy, will spotlight the multiple benefits that oxbow wetland restorations bring for water quality, wildlife, and people by sharing recent research findings and restoration experiences from the field.

Wilke has worked for The Nature Conservancy for the past seven years to research, promote, and restore oxbow wetlands for improved water quality, floodwater storage, and wildlife habitat across Iowa. She hopes webinar attendees will leave with a sense of hope for the future, excitement for the possibilities, and a sense of purpose for moving forward.

To participate in the live webinar, shortly before 12:00 pm CDT on August 5:

Click this URL, or type this web address into your internet browser: https://iastate.zoom.us/j/364284172

    Or, go to https://iastate.zoom.us/join and enter meeting ID: 364 284 172 

Or, join from a dial-in phone line:

    Dial: +1 312 626 6799 or +1 646 876 9923

    Meeting ID: 364 284 172

The webinar will also be recorded and archived on the ILF website, so that it can be watched at any time. Archived webinars are available at https://www.iowalearningfarms.org/page/webinars.

A Certified Crop Adviser board-approved continuing education unit (CEU) has been applied for, for those who are able to participate in the live webinar. Information about how to apply to receive the credit (if approved) will be provided at the end of the live webinar.

Hilary Pierce

Multiple On-Farm Improvements Provided by Prairie Strips

We hosted a webinar on Wednesday about the benefits of integrating prairie strips into row crop operations.

Prairie strips can be a solution to reduce soil and nutrient loss from row crop operations. Prairie plants are perennial and have deep roots and tall, stiff stems that can prevent water and soil from moving across the ground. Prairie is also native and diverse, providing important habitat for our wildlife.

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Tim Youngquist, Farmer Liaison for the Science-Based Trials of Rowcrops Integrated with Prairie Strips (STRIPS) team at Iowa State University, shared information about the history of the STRIPS project and the ongoing on-farm “STRIPS 2” trials. Youngquist helps farmers and landowners implement prairie strips on their land and on-farm trials are taking place across the state and region.

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During the webinar, Youngquist also went through the answers to questions he is frequently asked about prairie strips, including:

  • How do prairie strips impact water and nutrient movement?
  • Will prairie plug my tile lines?
  • What should I plant in the strips?
  • Do the strips create habitat for pollinators, ground beetles, or grassland birds??
  • How can prairie be used on my farm to achieve these benefits?
  • What maintenance do I need to do after seeding?

To learn more about prairie strips and the answers to these questions, watch the full webinar here! Recordings of other previous webinars are also available on our website.

If you’re interested in finding out if prairie strips could work in your operation, guidance is available in the Whole Farm Conservation Best Practices Manual.

Join us next week on Wednesday, August 5 for “Scaling up Oxbow Wetland Restorations for Multiple Benefits”, a webinar presented by Karen Wilke, Iowa Freshwater Specialist & Boone River Project Director for The Nature Conservancy.

Hilary Pierce

July 29 Webinar: Multiple On-Farm Improvements Provided by Prairie Strips

Iowa Learning Farms will host a webinar on Wednesday, July 29 at noon about the benefits of integrating prairie strips into rowcrop operations.

Tim Youngquist, Farmer Liaison for the Science-Based Trials of Rowcrops Integrated with Prairie Strips (STRIPS) team at Iowa State University, will describe ways that prairie strips can lead to on-farm improvements. “Prairie is an exciting, useful, beautiful tool that can help control erosion, filter water, and create habitat for a wide variety of native species,” said Youngquist. “It can be planted by any farmer or anyone who owns even a small amount of land.”

Youngquist assists farmers and landowners around the state in designing, installing, and maintaining prairie strips. He will give an update on the background of STRIPS, recent research results, and project updates. He will also cover frequently asked questions about prairie strips. Webinar attendees will gain an understanding of the disproportionate benefits that can be achieved through the planting of a small amount of prairie in a rowcrop field. Join us at noon on July 29 to learn more about prairie strips and have the opportunity to ask Youngquist questions about this conservation practice.

To participate in the live webinar, shortly before 12:00 pm CDT on July 29:

Click this URL, or type this web address into your internet browser: https://iastate.zoom.us/j/364284172

    Or, go to https://iastate.zoom.us/join and enter meeting ID: 364 284 172 

Or, join from a dial-in phone line:

    Dial: +1 312 626 6799 or +1 646 876 9923

    Meeting ID: 364 284 172

The webinar will also be recorded and archived on the ILF website, so that it can be watched at any time. Archived webinars are available at https://www.iowalearningfarms.org/page/webinars.

A Certified Crop Adviser board-approved continuing education unit (CEU) has been approved for those who are able to participate in the live webinar. Information about how to apply to receive the credit will be provided at the end of the live webinar.

Hilary Pierce

July 9 Virtual Field Day: Prairie Strips – Small Footprint, Big Impact

Iowa Learning Farms, in partnership with the Iowa Nutrient Research Center, and Conservation Learning Group, is hosting a free virtual prairie strips field day on Thursday, July 9 at 1pm CDT.  Join us as we explore the multitude of benefits prairie strips can offer with Tim Youngquist, ISU Prairie STRIPS farmer liaison, and Gary Guthrie, Story County landowner with prairie strips.

Photo Credit: Omar de Kok-Mercado

Prairie strips is a farmland conservation practice that uses strategically placed native prairie plantings in crop fields. The practice has been tested by the Science-based Trials of Rowcrops Integrated with Prairie Strips (STRIPS) team since 2007 on experimental plots at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge and increasingly on commercial farms across Iowa. Results from more than eight years of trials showed that converting just 10 percent of a crop field to prairie strips could result in a reduction of 95 percent of the sediment, 90 percent of the phosphorus and 84 percent of the nitrogen from overland flow of surface water.

“Prairie strips are a useful conservation tool that farmers and landowners throughout the Midwest are integrating into their farming operations,” noted Youngquist. “Prairie keeps soil in place, filters water, offers habitat for many native species of wildlife and pollinators, provides beautiful blooming flowers, and more.”

Make plans to join us and participate in the live field day. Shortly before 1:00 pm CDT on July 9th, click this URL or visit www.iowalearningfarms.org/page/events and click “Join Live Virtual Field Day”.

Or, join from a dial-in phone line:

    Dial: +1 312 626 6799 or +1 646 876 9923

    Meeting ID: 914 1198 4892

The field day will be recorded and archived on the ILF website so that it can be watched at any time. The archive is available at https://www.iowalearningfarms.org/page/events.

A Certified Crop Adviser board-approved continuing education unit (CEU) has been applied for, for those who are able to participate in the live webinar. Information about how to apply to receive the credit (if approved) will be provided at the end of the live field day.

Liz Ripley

Prairie Strips – Saving Soil, Cleaning Water, and Creating Wildlife Habitat

The final practice included in the Whole Farm Conservation Best Practices manual is prairie strips. These areas of perennial vegetation address three main resource concerns (soil erosion, nutrient loss, and wildlife habitat)

Prairie species have stiff stems and deep roots that slow down water, allow it to infiltrate, and filter out sediment and nutrients. Patches of native perennial vegetation create valuable habitat for a wide variety of birds, insects, and mammals.

Prairie strips can be placed around the edge of a field, within the field, alongside or perpendicular to waterways, and in terrace channels. To provide erosion control, improved water quality, and wildlife habitat, a minimum of 10% of the field should be converted to prairie. Prairie strips should have a minimum width of 30’ and be spaced at intervals that work with your farming equipment.

Check out the decision tree below to see if prairie strips can work for you!

Prairie flowers and grasses take time to establish, typically requiring two to three seasons of establishment management. Annual and perennial weeds grow quickly and can outcompete prairie plants in the first two growing seasons. Mowing prairie is an essential management practice that must be done during the first year whenever the height of the vegetation reaches twelve inches. Mower height should be set to four to six inches.

This helpful graphic can help identify which seed mix is right for your field.

Be sure to join us for two prairie strips events coming up this summer:

July 9, 1pm CDT – Virtual Field Day: Prairie Strips – Small Footprint, Big Impact

July 29, 12pm CDT – Webinar: Tim Youngquist, STRIPS Farmer Liaison

Find all our upcoming virtual field days and webinars on our Events Page.

Liz Ripley

Environmental Performance of Wetlands Receiving Non-Point Source Nutrient Loads: Benefits and Limitations of Targeted Wetland Restorations

Iowa Learning Farms hosted a webinar on Wednesday about the results from 15 years of research on Iowa Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) wetlands, including nutrient removal, greenhouse gas emissions, and hydrology. The research presented in this webinar is one of the largest and longest running projects of its kind and helps to clarify the potential benefits and limitations of targeted wetland restorations. The research methods are also being used to monitor the impact of in-field practice changes through the Conservation Learning Lab project.

The location of the sites for wetland performance monitoring during this project

Iowa’s landscape used to be covered in wetlands, but these have been extensively drained to allow for agriculture and development. Drainage networks are the primary pathways that nitrate moves across the landscape and into surface water. By routing drainage lines into treatment wetlands, these wetlands can remove nitrate from subsurface drainage, especially when they are constructed in targeted areas.

Targeted wetland restorations have the opportunity to intercept drainage networks to remove nitrogen

William Crumpton, University Professor at Iowa State University, also discussed greenhouse gas emissions from wetlands and the phosphorus removal performance of treatment wetlands that receive non-point source loads during the webinar. He emphasized the importance of targeting wetland restorations. Wetlands that are established for habitat in upland areas do not have the opportunity to intercept tile flow, and therefore can only remove low amounts of nitrate. If wetlands are sited strategically in downslope areas to intercept tile flow, then their removal of nitrate dramatically increases.

Upslope wetland sites only remove about 1.9 metric tons of N, while downslope wetland sites are able to remove about 17 metric tons of N.

To learn more about this research project and the effectiveness of targeted wetlands that receive non-point source nutrient loads, watch the full webinar here.

Join us next week on Wednesday, July 1 for a webinar titled “Optimizing Yields of Corn Planted After a Cereal Rye Cover Crop” presented by Alison Robertson, Professor & Extension Field Crops Pathologist at Iowa State University.

Hilary Pierce

June 24 Webinar: Environmental Performance of Wetlands Receiving Non-Point Source Nutrient Loads: Benefits and Limitations of Targeted Wetland Restorations

Iowa Learning Farms will host a webinar on Wednesday, June 24 at noon about the potential targeted wetland restorations have to reduce agricultural nutrient loads.

William Crumpton speaks to a water quality field day group at a CREP wetland in Pocahontas County

Over the past 15 years, over 90 wetlands have been restored through the Iowa Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) with the explicit goal of intercepting and reducing non-point source nitrate loads. William Crumpton, Professor at Iowa State University, will summarize results from 15 years of work on Iowa CREP wetlands, including nutrient removal, GHG emissions, and hydrology. The research presented in this webinar is one of the largest and longest running projects of its kind and helps to clarify the potential benefits and limitations of targeted wetland restorations. The research methods are also being used to monitor the impact of in-field practice changes through the Conservation Learning Lab project.

“The Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy includes a wide range of in-field and off-field practices, but will likely require restoring thousands of wetlands targeted to intercept and reduce nitrate loads from cultivated cropland,” said Crumpton, who studies wetland processes and functions, including the dynamics of energy flow and nutrient transformation in wetlands, the fate and effects of agricultural contaminants in wetlands, and the role of restored and constructed wetlands in watershed hydrology and water quality.

Wetland restored to intercept and reduce nonpoint source nutrient loads from approximately 950 hectares of cultivated cropland in Palo Alto County, Iowa

“I hope participants will better understand the effects of targeted wetland restorations on water quality and hydrology and thus appreciate the potential benefits and limitations of this practice in Iowa’s agricultural landscapes,” Crumpton said about Wednesday’s webinar.  

To participate in the live webinar, shortly before 12:00 pm CDT on June 24:

Click this URL, or type this web address into your internet browser: https://iastate.zoom.us/j/364284172

    Or, go to https://iastate.zoom.us/join and enter meeting ID: 364 284 172 

Or, join from a dial-in phone line:

    Dial: +1 312 626 6799 or +1 646 876 9923

    Meeting ID: 364 284 172

The webinar will also be recorded and archived on the ILF website, so that it can be watched at any time. Archived webinars are available at https://www.iowalearningfarms.org/page/webinars.

A Certified Crop Adviser board-approved continuing education unit (CEU) has been applied for, for those who are able to participate in the live webinar. Information about how to apply to receive the credit (if approved) will be provided at the end of the live webinar.

Hilary Pierce

Controlling Drainage, Improving Water Quality

Controlled drainage uses existing tile drainage coupled with additional water control structures to help hold subsurface water in place when full drainage isn’t needed and prevent the loss of nitrogen through tile drain outflows.

Water control structures are managed so that subsurface water is drawn down during periods of field work, such as during planting and harvesting. The subsurface water level is then raised outside of the growing season and after crop establishment. The illustration below demonstrates how the control structure gates can be added or removed to adjust the water level.

Image Credit: Ten Ways to Reduce Nitrogen Loads from Drained Cropland in the Midwest, University of Illinois, C1400

Some must-have pieces of information for determining whether controlled drainage will work for your site include:

  1. Drainage map
  2. Topographic map
  3. Soils map

It is also helpful to have an understanding of your goals and your willingness and ability to manage such a system.

Whether you’re a decision maker or conservation professional, the Whole Farm Conservation Best Practices manual features useful decision trees (below) to determine if practices like controlled drainage are a good fit!

Liz Ripley

A Paired Watershed Study of the Impact of Stacked BMPs on Water Quality

Iowa Learning Farms hosted a webinar on Wednesday about the results of a long-term catchment-scale monitoring project in the Black Hawk Lake watershed. Michelle Soupir, Associate Professor at Iowa State University, shared the results from the project, which has collected flow and water quality data from paired catchments. One of the catchments has a higher level of best management practice (BMP) implementation than the other catchment.

Information about Subwatershed 11, the “low BMP” catchment

The paired catchments, or subwatersheds, were Subwatersheds 11 and 12 within the greater Black Hawk Lake watershed. The catchments have similar site characteristics and flow patterns. Subwatershed 11 has a fewer BMPs, while Subwatershed 12 has a higher rate of BMP implementation. Both catchments were monitored at their outlets.

Information about Subwatershed 12, the “high BMP” catchment

Water quality monitoring results showed that export of nitrate+nitrite, total phosphorus and total suspended solids was lower from Subwatershed 12, when compared to Subwatershed 11. However, the export of dissolved reactive phosphorus (DRP) was higher from Subwatershed 12. This could be due to an area of perennial vegetation near the outlet of the catchment, which traps sediment and may allow for the release of DRP during storm events. The higher amount of DRP export from this watershed could also be due to differences in manure and commercial fertilizer application between the two catchments.

To learn more about the results of this long-term monitoring project, watch the full webinar here!

Please join us on Wednesday, June 10 at 12:00 pm CDT for a webinar titled “Making Nutrient Reducing Prairie Strips More Predictably Successful, Multi-Functional, and Cost Effective” presented by Justin Meissen, Research and Restoration Manager at the Tallgrass Prairie Center.

Hilary Pierce

June 11 Virtual Field Day: Exploring the Bear Creek Saturated Buffer

Iowa Learning Farms, in partnership with the Iowa Nutrient Research Center, Conservation Learning Group, and Prairie Rivers of Iowa, is hosting a free virtual saturated buffer field day on Thursday, June 11 at 1pm CDT.  Join us as we explore the first-ever saturated buffer that was installed in 2010 within an existing riparian buffer along Bear Creek in Hamilton County.

Aerial shot of stream and seeded saturated buffer on the right, looking south along Bear Creek. Fall seeded prairie pictured in its first year of growth.

The event will include video footage from the field and live interaction with Tom Isenhart, Iowa State University Professor, Billy Beck, Iowa State University Assistant Professor and Extension Forestry Specialist and Dan Haug and David Stein of Prairie Rivers of Iowa. Together they will discuss how saturated buffers, riparian buffers and pollinator habitat work together to improve water quality, farm aesthetics, and wildlife opportunities.

Riparian buffers are a proven practice for removing nitrate from overland flow and shallow groundwater. However, in landscapes with artificial subsurface (tile) drainage, most of the subsurface flow leaving fields is passed through the buffers in drainage pipes, leaving little opportunity for nitrate removal. Isenhart, along with Dan Jaynes, Research Soil Scientist with the National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment (USDA-ARS), pioneered the process of re-routing a fraction of field tile drainage as subsurface flow through a riparian buffer for increasing nitrate removal – creating the first ever saturated buffer that will be featured during this virtual field day.

Make plans to join us and participate in the live field day. Shortly before 1:00 pm CDT on June 11th, click HERE.

Or, join from a dial-in phone line:

    Dial: +1 312 626 6799 or +1 646 876 9923

    Meeting ID: 914 1198 4892

The field day will be recorded and archived on the ILF website so that it can be watched at any time. The archive is available on the Iowa Learning Farms Events page.

A Certified Crop Adviser board-approved continuing education unit (CEU) has been applied for, for those who are able to participate in the live webinar. Information about how to apply to receive the credit (if approved) will be provided at the end of the live field day.

Liz Ripley