Virtual Field Day March 4: Water Quality and Quantity Improvements in the Clear Creek Watershed

Iowa Learning Farms, in partnership with the Iowa Nutrient Research Center, and Conservation Learning Group (CLG), is hosting a free virtual field day featuring the efforts in the Clear Creek Watershed to improve water quality and quantity issues on Thursday, March 4 at 1 p.m. CST. Join us for a live discussion with John Rathbun, Clear Creek Watershed Coordinator and Johnson County landowners Pat and Burne Sippy.

Located in Iowa and Johnson County, the Clear Creek Watershed Coalition is working to implement seventy conservation practices to improve water quality and reduce downstream flooding. One unique project in the watershed being highlighted during the virtual field day, is the construction of a fringe wetland along the edges of a revitalized pond owned by the Sippy family.

Johnson County Landowners Pat Sippy and Burne Sippy

The fringe wetland will create a land shelf 6-18 feet in width around about 90% of the pond and will be just above the normal pool of the pond. It will provide consistently saturated soil for wetland plants and wildlife and will be become inundated during rain events to store additional water and filter the water as it moves through the wetland. Combined with additional practices, the Sippy’s land will be storing water during high rain events and significantly reducing the flood potential to the Tiffin, Coralville and Iowa City communities.

“In a 1,850-acre sub-watershed of Middle Clear Creek, five landowners have installed twelve practices that treat eleven percent of the acres.  The Sippy family has installed three of these practices and will be installing two more in another sub-watershed.  They exemplify the conservation ethic and stewardship of land, water and wildlife that makes them a good neighbor to their downstream neighbors, Clear Creek, and Iowa,” noted Rathbun.

To participate in the live virtual field day at 1:00 pm CST on March 4 to learn more, click HERE 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 will be available at https://www.iowalearningfarms.org/page/events.

Participants may be eligible for a Certified Crop Adviser board-approved continuing education unit (CEU). Information about how to apply to receive the credit (if approved) will be provided at the end of the live field day.

Liz Ripley

Nutrient Retention Capacity of Newly Restored Wetlands in Southwestern Ontario

During the webinar on Wednesday, Bryan Page, research biologist with Ducks Unlimited Canada, shared the first year of results investigating the nutrient retention capacity of newly restored wetlands in the Canadian portion of the Lake Erie watershed. In 2016, the US and Canada adopted a goal to reduce phosphorus in Lake Erie by 40% and wetlands were identified as natural infrastructure to help protect downstream water quality. The goal of this project was to assess the nutrient retention capacity of newly restored wetlands and provide a quantitative value to determine if wetland restoration should be used as a best management practice to help restore and protect Lake Erie water quality.

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This project measured all of the phosphorus and nitrogen species, rather than just total phosphorus and nitrogen, to allow for a greater understanding of nutrient retention and how biologically available the nutrients that were not retained are. Some species are more biologically available than others, making it important to consider the species when assessing nutrient retention capacity. The project assessed eight newly restored wetlands in southwestern Ontario, which had an average age of 4 years, average basin area of 0.33 hectares, and average contributing area of 16.4 hectares.

To learn more about this project and the first year results, including a breakdown of the different phosphorus species, watch the full webinar!

Join us next week, on Wednesday, February 24, for the webinar “Silvo-what?: Exploring Opportunities for Livestock with Silvopasture Management” with Ashley Conway, PhD, PAS, assistant research professor at the University of Missouri Center for Agroforestry.

Hilary Pierce

February 17 Webinar: Nutrient Retention Capacity of Newly Restored Wetlands in Southwestern Ontario

The Iowa Learning Farms webinar on Wednesday, February 17, will highlight research being done on the nutrient retention capacity of newly restored wetlands in Ontario, Canada.

Wetlands have been identified as natural infrastructure to help protect downstream water quality. However, wetland drainage has resulted in widespread loss of wetlands across the rural working landscape of southwestern Ontario, Canada. Bryan Page, research biologist with Ducks Unlimited Canada, will report on the first year of results investigating the nutrient retention capacity of newly restored wetlands in the Canadian portion of the Lake Erie watershed.

“In settled areas of Canada, up to 70% of our wetlands have already been destroyed or degraded. As they continuous to disappear, so too do the many benefits they provide,” said Page. “Newly restored wetlands retain nutrients on the landscape and help protect our lakes.”

Page received his B.Sc. majoring in Environmental Science and his M.Sc. in Chemistry both at the University of Manitoba. Since he joined Ducks Unlimited Canada’s Institute for Wetland and Waterfowl Research in 2008, his research has focused on the behavior of nutrients in restored, constructed, and intact wetlands across the prairie pothole region and southwestern Ontario.

Webinar Access Instructions

To participate in the live webinar, shortly before 12 pm CST on February 17:

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 will be provided at the end of the live webinar.

Hilary Pierce

Virtual Field Day December 10: Wetlands Key to Middle Cedar Watershed and State Goals

Iowa Learning Farms, in partnership with the Iowa Nutrient Research Center, and Conservation Learning Group (CLG), is hosting a free wetland virtual field day on Thursday, December 10th at 1 p.m. CST.

The virtual field day will highlight public and private partnerships working together to implement wetlands to reduce flooding and improve water quality in the Middle Cedar Watershed and beyond. Join us for a live conversation with Adam Rodenberg, Project Coordinator for the Middle Cedar Watershed, and Matt Lechtenberg, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship Water Quality Coordinator.

Wetlands provide a wide variety of benefits on the landscape and are an important tool in reaching Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy goals. Not only do these wetlands filter out sediment, they also reduce nitrate concentrations through the natural denitrification process. Additionally, wetlands can store water and the newly constructed sites in the Middle Cedar play a key role in reducing flooding within the watershed and downstream. These areas also provide critical wildlife habitat and beauty to the landscape.

“Using wetland design standards similar to the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), the wetland featured during the live event is helping accomplish our project goals of flood reduction downstream,” noted Rodenberg. “The project also offered a unique opportunity to work with the landowner to safely meet their livestock grazing goals and expand on their previous efforts to more effectively manage water on the site.”

To participate in the live virtual field day at 1:00 pm CST on December 10th, click HERE or visit http://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 will be available at https://www.iowalearningfarms.org/page/events.

Participants may be eligible for a Certified Crop Adviser board-approved continuing education unit (CEU). Information about how to apply to receive the credit (if approved) will be provided at the end of the live field day.

Liz Ripley

Virtual Field Day October 15: Mitigating Flooding and Improving Water Quality in the Upper Wapsipinicon Watershed

Iowa Learning Farms, in partnership with the Iowa Nutrient Research Center, and Conservation Learning Group (CLG), is hosting a free virtual field day highlighting public and private partnerships aiming to reduce flooding and improve water quality in the Upper Wapsipinicon River Watershed on Thursday, October 15th at 1 p.m. CDT.

Join us for a live conversation with Tori Nimrod and Ross Evelsizer, Upper Wapsipinicon River Watershed Coordinators with Northeast Iowa Resource Conservation and Development and Luke Monat and Daniel Jensen, engineers at Shive-Hattery Inc. Architecture & Engineering.

Tori Nimrod and Ross Evelsizer, Upper Wapsipinicon River Watershed Coordinators with Northeast Iowa Resource Conservation and Development highlighting one of their projects in Quasqueton

The virtual field day will offer a closer look at a current wetland project in Quasqueton that is designed to reduce flash flows during heavy rainfall events. The small wetland will reduce flows from the capture zone by around 50% during a 100 year flood event or a 6.6 inch rainfall event. A goal for the Upper Wapsipinicon Watershed Management Authority (WMA) is to implement 28 projects on both private and public properties that will help to mitigate flooding in the watershed.   

“Watershed management is a long-term process, and the Upper Wapsipinicon is only in the beginning phases of that process. The projects implemented as a part of the Iowa Watershed Approach Project will help build flood resilience for watershed residents in the future,” noted Nimrod.

To participate in the live virtual field day at 1:00 pm CDT on October 15th, click HERE 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 will be available at https://www.iowalearningfarms.org/page/events.

Participants may be eligible for a Certified Crop Adviser board-approved continuing education unit (CEU). Information about how to apply to receive the credit (if approved) will be provided at the end of the live field day.

-Liz Ripley

Iowa’s CREP Wetlands Provide Opportunity to Measure Delivery Scale Impacts

The Iowa Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) is a state, federal, local, and private partnership that provides incentives to landowners who voluntarily establish wetlands for water quality improvement.

The goal is to reduce nitrogen loads from croplands to streams and rivers, while also providing wildlife habitat and increased recreational opportunities. Over the past 15 years, about 90 CREP sites have been constructed in a 37 county region in north central Iowa.

For over 10 years Dr. William Crumpton, Iowa State University professor in the department of Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology, has been leading the monitoring of 10-15 of the CREP sites to measure their performance.

In a new video released by the Iowa Learning Farms, Dr. Crumpton discusses how CREP wetlands function and the need for long-term delivery scale monitoring with Dr. Matt Helmers, Director of the Iowa Nutrient Research Center.

Here’s a sneak peak of their conversation:

How do CREP wetlands go about removing nitrate?

The primary process is denitrification. Denitrification is carried out by anaerobic bacteria. They use carbon as an energy source and nitrate as an electron receptor instead of oxygen. They denitrify nitrate into N2 gas -which is 80% of our atmosphere.

What factors influence their performance in removing nitrate?

1. The amount of water that goes into the wetland, also known as hydraulic loading rate. This factor is the easiest to adjust to control overall performance. If the wetland is larger, the hydraulic loading rate is smaller and the higher percentage of nitrate that entered the system is removed.

2. Temperature. Denitrification increases with warmer temperatures and slows during the cooler times of the year.

3. Incoming nitrate concentrations. If the incoming concentration is higher more mass of nitrate is removed by the wetland.

What are the habitat benefits of these sites?

The buffer area is about 3x the pool area. For example, a 10 acre CREP pool has a 30+ acre buffer around it. The buffers are seeded with native prairies mixes of grasses and forbs. Because CREP sites are designed to be wet, even in drought years these sites have not gone dry. They provide critical habitat during drought conditions.

These CREP sites are being used for projects like the Conservation Learning Labs led by the Iowa Learning Farms. Why is delivery scale level of monitoring important to helping meet the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy Goals?

Delivery scale monitoring helps determine if plot scale performance results on nitrate and phosphorus reductions from various practices is what can be expected at field-level implementation.

For the CLL sites at least 50% of each watershed has been seeded to cover crops for 3 years. However, the water quality data has not yet shown a significant response. What are some factors that are contributing to the lack of response?

Scale and weather both play a role in the results. The larger system has a longer lag time compared to plot scale research. Continued long term monitoring at the delivery scale is extremely important as weather influences nutrient loading and management decisions. Both 2017 and 2018 weather limited the amount of cover crop growth, likely reducing their nutrient reduction performance. Dr. Crumpton recommends at least 10 years of monitoring to average out the weather influences on the practices performances and account for lag time in the system.

For more information on nitrate reduction wetlands in Iowa and cost-share opportunities for your farm, be sure to check out our recent virtual field day with Susan Kozak, IDALS Soil Conservation & Water Quality Division Director, and Shane Wulf, IDALS Water Resources Bureau Environmental Specialist.

Liz Ripley

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

August 6 Virtual Field Day: Increasing Wetland Opportunities with Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship

Iowa Learning Farms, in partnership with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS), Iowa Nutrient Research Center, and Conservation Learning Group, is hosting a free virtual wetland field day on Thursday, Aug. 6 at 1 p.m. CDT. Join us as we explore new wetland program opportunities and a wetland under construction with Susan Kozak, IDALS Soil Conservation & Water Quality Division Director, and Shane Wulf, IDALS Water Resources Bureau Environmental Specialist.

The Iowa Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) is a state, federal, local, and private partnership that provides incentives to landowners who voluntarily establish wetlands for water quality improvement. The goal is to reduce nitrogen loads from croplands to streams and rivers, while also providing wildlife habitat and increased recreational opportunities. Over the past 15 years, about 90 CREP sites have been constructed in a 37 county region in north central Iowa.

To accelerate the installation of wetlands across the state to help meet the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy goals, the Iowa Water Quality Initiative offers flexible, cost-share funding to help install wetlands in areas that do not meet CREP program requirements. To date, more than 30 additional wetlands are set to be begin construction in the next two or three years.

Keokuk County wetland under construction.
Photo credit: landowner Denny Lyle

To participate in the live virtual field day at 1:00 pm CDT on August 6th, 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 will be available at https://www.iowalearningfarms.org/page/events.

Participants may be eligible for a Certified Crop Adviser board-approved continuing education unit (CEU). Information about how to apply to receive the credit (if approved) will be provided at the end of the live field day.

Liz Ripley

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

Wetland Ecosystem Services: How Wetlands Can Benefit Iowans

On Wednesday, Iowa Learning Farms hosted a webinar about the importance of wetlands in Iowa. Kay Stefanik, Assistant Director of the Iowa Nutrient Research Center, described what makes a wetland a wetland, the different types of wetlands found in Iowa and the ecosystem services that wetlands provide.

Wetlands need to have saturated soils or standing water for enough of the year that hydric soils and hydrophytic vegetation establish. The hydric soil of wetlands is different than that of upland areas. Upland soils will have water and oxygen gases in the pore spaces between the soil particles, while wetlands soils will have water in its pore spaces, with either very little or no oxygen gas. The figure below shows the different in the pore spaces of upland and wetland soils (Raven P.H. et al. 2011. Biology, 9th edition). Finally, wetlands feature hydrophytic vegetation (water plants), which can grow in these saturated soil conditions.

Stefanik described four common types of wetlands that naturally occur in Iowa. Prairie potholes are found predominantly in the Des Moines Lobe and are depressions that collect water during wet periods of the year. Riverine wetlands occur near streams or rivers on floodplains or as oxbow (old meanders of a stream channel that have been cut off from the main channel over time) wetlands. Fens are typically groundwater fed and feature low vegetation. Emergent marshes have herbaceous vegetation, open water areas and algae.

Throughout the entire state of Iowa, about 89% of the original wetlands have been removed or lost as land use has changed. In the Des Moines Lobe region, which used to be known as the “1000 Lake Region”, 99% of the wetlands have been lost. This loss of wetlands matters to us all, due to the ecosystem services that wetlands provide.

To learn more about these ecosystem services that wetlands can provide, watch the full webinar here!

If you want to learn more about wetlands in Iowa, tune in to the Celebrating Iowa’s Wetlands Virtual Field Day on May 28.

Please join us on May 27 for a webinar with Paul Miller, Urban Conservationist at the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS), titled “The Importance of Urban Conservation and Useful Stormwater Management Practices for Homeowners”.

Hilary Pierce