Mixing Reconstructed Prairie with Cropland to Balance Food and Biofuel Production with Environmental Quality

Final Report for LNC09-314

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2009: $174,722.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Region: North Central
State: Iowa
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Matthew Helmers
Iowa State University
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Project Information

Summary:

Research goals of the last 4 years of SARE funding have been to; 1) Quantify the impacts that integrating areas of native perennial vegetation into agricultural fields have on hydrologic flows as well as sediment and nutrient export. 2) Promote outreach to our stakeholders of these impacts our research discovers. Each year these goals were met by first accumulating information from our STRIPs (Science-based Trials of Row-crops Integrated with Prairie Strips) project located at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge, Prairie City, Iowa, and then working to understand the information to communicate it to interested parties and individuals. We found that strategically converting a relatively small amount (10-20%) of an agricultural drainage area into native perennial vegetation can have significant positive effects on reducing surface water runoff, and in turn reducing sediment and nutrient export from the field. Our researchers have disseminated these findings through various outlets, including websites, podcasts, videos, instructional and informational guides, formal and informal presentations, discussions with landowners and soil and water conservation districts, peer-reviewed publications, presence at conferences, and an annual stakeholder meeting that includes members of many groups that are influential in policy-making.

Introduction:

Soil erosion and nutrient export from agricultural fields by water is an increasingly serious problem in agricultural landscapes, especially as growing populations intensify pressures on a fixed land area for food and energy. In addition, the impact of climate change is projected to increase the intensity of precipitation events. Loss of sediment along with nutrients reduces on-farm soil productivity and sustainability, degrades downstream water quality, and induces many off -farm social and ecological damages. Although restoration of native grassland on erodible soils would reduce these losses, this practice is not feasible across large regions where local communities depend on agriculture. One alternative strategy for erosion control and water quality improvement is the incorporation of relatively small amounts of native perennial vegetation (NPV) in strategic locations within agricultural landscapes. These patches or strips of NPV are designed to reduce surface water runoff and the sediment and nutrients carried with it. It is our research goal to quantify these impacts that native perennial vegetation has on hydrologic flows as well as sediment and nutrients important for agricultural purposes.

 

Project Objectives:

Efforts were focused on two objectives; 1) Quantify the impacts of integrating native perennial plants into agricultural fields by monitoring hydrologic flows and nutrient and sediment movement in experimental watersheds, and 2) Promote outreach to stakeholders.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Dr. Heidi Asbjornsen
  • Dr. Matt Helmers
  • Dr. Matt Liebman
  • Dr. Matt Oneal
  • Dr. Lisa Schulte Moore

Research

Materials and methods:

The study was conducted at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge (NSNWR) in Jasper County, IA. A total of 12 watersheds in NSNWR were selected to evaluate the benefits of integrating NPV in rowcrop agriculture for enhancing water quality in central Iowa. Each watershed received one of four treatments (three replicates per treatment): 100% rowcrop, 10% of the watershed area in NPV at the footslope position, 10% of the watershed area in NPV distributed between the footslope position and in contour strips further upslope in the watershed, and 20% of the watershed area in NPV distributed between the footslope position and in contour strips further upslope in the watershed.

Automated water samplers placed at the footslope of each watershed, were equipped with pressure transducers that recorded flow rate and collected water samples from surface runoff. Shallow groundwater wells (for groundwater collection) were installed at the upslope and footslope positions of each watershed. Tension lysimeters were installed at up-, side-, and footslope positions to collect soilwater samples. These three water sample types were analyzed for nutrients, with the surface water samples also being analyzed for sediment load estimation.

Annual surface runoff, as well as sediment and nutrient exports were compared among treatments to determine NPV strip benefits.

Research results and discussion:

In the years 2007-2013, surface water runoff was reduced by an average of 41% (ranging from 31-59%) by the implementation of NPV strips (Figure 1). The NPV strips allowed more potential for water infiltration into and percolation through the soil. NPV water usage also occurs through a greater portion of the soil profile. This quality, along with a longer growing season than the mono-cultured crop species, gives the potential for soil to retain a greater proportion of subsequent precipitation events before becoming saturated as well. It is also worth noting that the relative percentage of surface water retention NPV strips have provided has generally increased with time. This is most likely attributed to the continual development and maturation of the NPV strips, however other factors, such as precipitation patterns, need also be considered.

Sediment and nutrient export was significantly reduced by NPV strips compared to 100% crop fields. Data from 2013 continue to be analyzed, however, cumulative data from previous years indicate that reductions in sediment export by NPV strips average 95% (ranging from 94 - 96%, Figure 2). Reductions by NPV strips in total nitrogen export averaged 83% in the years 2007-2012, ranging from 80 to 87% (Figure 3a). Total phosphorus export declined by an average of 89% (range of 88-90%) in fields with NPV strips when compared to fields without them (Figure 3b). These data represent significant benefits to the farmer/landowner, as well as benefitting the environment and users of water downstream.

Since treatment implementation, lower nitrate-nitrogen concentrations have been found in those areas with native vegetation both in soil water and groundwater samples. This is more evident at monitoring locations at the footslope of the watersheds (Figure 4). Despite the relatively young age of these established prairie patches, it appears there is a positive impact on belowground nitrate-nitrogen concentrations.

 

Figure 1: Surface runoff from 2007-2013.

 

 

Figure 2: Sediment export in 2007-2012.

 

 

(a)

 

(b)

 

Figure 3: Impact of native perennial vegetation strips on cumulative (a) total N and (b) total P in surface runoff.

 

(a)

 

 

(b)

 

Figure 4: Impact of native perennial vegetation strips on nitrate levels in groundwater at the summit (a) and foot (b) slope positions.

Research conclusions:

Researchers disseminated information through various outlets, including websites, podcasts, videos, instructional and informational guides, formal and informal presentations, discussions with landowners and soil and water conservation districts, peer-reviewed publications, presence at conferences, and an annual stakeholder meeting that includes members of many groups that are influential in policy-making. These groups include, but are not limited to: Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Conservation Districts of Iowa, White Rock Conservancy, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association, USDA Natural Resources Conservancy Service, USDA Agricultural Resource Service, Trees Forever, farmers, and Iowa State University.

Economic Analysis

Crop producers and land management agencies require comprehensive information about the Best Management Practices with regard to performance efficacy, operational/ management parameters, and the full range of financial parameters. A farm-level financial model was created to assess the establishment, management, and opportunity costs of NPV strips within cropped fields. Annualized, depending on variable opportunity costs the 15-year present value cost of utilizing NPV strips ranges from $590 to $865 ha-1 year-1 ($240–$350 ac-1 year-1). Expressed in the context of ‘‘treatment area’’ (e.g., in this study with 10% of cropland converted to NPV strips, 1 ha of NPV treats 10 ha of crops), the costs of NPV strips can also be viewed as $59 to about $87 per treated hectare ($24–$35 ac-1). If NPV strips were under a 15-year CRP contract, total per acre cost to farmers would be reduced by over 85 %. Based on sediment, phosphorus, and nitrogen export data from the related field studies and across low, medium, and high land rent scenarios, a megagram (Mg) of soil retained within the watershed costs between $7.79 and $11.46 mg-1, phosphorus retained costs between $6.97 and $10.25 kg-1, and nitrogen retained costs between $1.59 and $2.34 kg-1. Based on overall project results, NPV strips may well become one of the key conservation practices used to sustain US Corn Belt agriculture in the decades to come.

Farmer Adoption

Within the last four years, as we have gained a greater understanding of how NPV strips can benefit farmers, more effort associated with this project has been focused on outreach and finding demonstration farms to illustrate these benefits to the general public. Two years ago, Seth Watkins (near Clarinda, IA) became the first farmer to agree to adopt this practice. Since then, we have begun to recruit interested parties from across Iowa as well as northern Missouri. Substantial effort is being made to support these farmers/landowners, from mapping NPV strip locations to supplying sources of prairie seed to providing management suggestions once the NPV strips are in the field.

Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

Participation Summary:

Education/outreach description:

Presentations:

Heaton E.A., L.A. Schulte Moore, M. Helmers, M. Liebman, and F Milster. 25th Annual Integrated Crop Management Conference. Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa (6 December, 2013). Producing food, feed and energy: How can agriculture do it all?

Schulte Moore, L.A. University of California, Berkeley Diversified Farming Systems Roundtable Series, Berkeley, California (25 November, 2013). Strategic integration of perennials into agricultural landscapes to measure multifunctional societal goals.

Schulte Moore, L.A. Purdue University’s Department of Forestry and Natural Resources Seminar, West Lafayette, Indiana (22 October, 2013). Social dimensions of adaptive watershed management and what motivates farmers to adopt conservation practices.

MacDonald, A.L. Des Moines Audubon Society, Des Moines, Iowa (15 October, 2013). Prairie Strips in Row Crop Fields: Blurring the lines between production and conservation lands.

MacDonald, A.L.  Project Coordinators meeting for the Southeast Iowa Basin, Monroe, Iowa (10 October, 2013). The STRIPs Project: Science-based Trials of Row crops Integrated with Prairies.

MacDonald, A.L.  Iowa Prairie Heritage Week, Winterset, Iowa (10 September, 2013).  Harnessing the Power of Prairie.

Harris, M.A., L.A. Schulte, M.J. Helmers, J.G. Arbuckle, P. Drobney, R. Kolka, M. Liebman, M.E. O’Neal, and J.C. Tyndall. 98th annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America, Minneapolis, Minnesota (8 August, 2013).Bridging the conservation lands – working lands divide with a cost-effective strategy to enhance ecosystem services.

Schulte, L.A., M.J. Helmers, J.G. Arbuckle, P. Drobney, M.A. Harris, R. Kolka, M. Liebman, M.E. O’Neal, and J.C. Tyndall. 98th annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America, Minneapolis, Minnesota (6 August, 2013). Ecosystem complementarity through STRIPs.

MacDonald, A.L. Loess Hills Prairie Seminar, Onawa, Iowa (1 June, 2013).  The STRIPs Project:  Science-based Trials of Row crops Integrated with Prairies.

Liebman, M. University of Wisconsin–Madison, Agroecology Program, seminar, Madison, Wisconsin (9 May, 2013). Impacts of biodiversity in agricultural systems: results from two field experiments in Iowa.

Liebman, M. Valley Lutheran School (Cedar Falls, IA) classes visiting ISU campus, Ames, Iowa (23 April, 2013). Sustainable agriculture and soil conservation.

MacDonald, A.L. Big Bluestem Audubon Socity, Ames, Iowa (18 April, 2013). Prairie Strips in Row Crop Fields: A conservation practice that provides habitat while improving water quality.

Liebman, M. Iowa State University, Iowa Water Conference, Ames, Iowa (4 March, 2013). The STRIPs project at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge.

Liebman, M. Iowa State University, Department of Entomology, seminar, Ames, Iowa (18 February, 2013). Using biodiversity to link agricultural productivity and profitability with environmental quality: results from field experiments in Iowa.

Liebman, M. University of Missouri, Division of Plant Sciences, seminar, Columbia, Missouri (13 February, 2013). Impacts of biodiversity in agricultural systems: results from two field experiments in Iowa.

Schulte, L.A. USFS Workshop on Functional Restoration, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (5 February, 2013). The importance of social context.

Liebman, M. Michigan State University, Kellogg Biological Station, Hickory Corners, Michigan (12 October 2012). Using biodiversity to link agricultural productivity and profitability with environmental quality: results from three field experiments in Iowa.

Harris, M. NCERC Canadian Pollination Initiative’s Pollination & Land Rehabilitation Workshop, Columbus, Ohio (30 September 2012). Ecosystem services of STRIPs.

Liebman Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, Iowa Learning Farms webinar, Ames, Iowa (19 September 2012). Keys to agricultural sustainability and resilience: a scientist’s perspective.

MacDonald, A.L., L.A. Schulte Moore, M.J. Helmers, and J.B. Niemi.  International Conference on Agricultural Biodiversity and Sustainability, Hokkaido University, Japan (29 August 2012).  Bird response to native habitat strips integrated into agricultural fields. (Poster presentation)

Liebman, M. Ecological Society of America, national meeting, Milwaukee, Wisconsin (8 August 2012). Using biodiversity to link agricultural productivity and profitability with environmental quality: results from three field experiments in Iowa.

MacDonald, A.L., L.A. Schulte, M.J. Helmers, and J.B. Niemi.  97th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America, Portland, Oregon (7 August 2012).  Testing a new conservation practice for agricultural landscapes: Bird response to prairie strips in row-cropped landscapes.

Mitchell, D.C., M.J. Castellano, T.B. Parkin, and M.J. Helmers. 97th Annual Meeting, Ecological Society of America, Portland, Oregon (5-10 August 2012).  Biogeochemical processes of nitrate removal by prairie buffers in Iowa agricultural watersheds. (Poster Presentation)

Liebman Faculty of Land and Food Systems, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Britich Columbia, Canada (2 May 2012). Ecologically based strategies for crop and weed management.

Liebman Iowa Water Conference, Ames, Iowa (7 March 2012). Keys to agricultural sustainability and resilience: a scientist’s perspective.

Liebman. M. Ames Rotary Club, Ames, Iowa (20 February 2012). Feeding ourselves while protecting the planet: views from the air and on the ground.

Helmers, M.J. Crop Advantage Series meeting, Atlantic, Iowa (24 January, 2012). Can conservation complement agriculture?

Helmers, M.J. Crop Advantage Series meeting, Atlantic, Iowa (18 January, 2012). Water quality benefits of perennial filter strips in row-cropped watersheds.

Helmers, M.J. New Approaches to Soil and Water Management Workshop in Carroll, Iowa (20 December 2011). Water Quality Benefits of Perennial Filter Strips in Row-Cropped Watersheds.

Tomer, M. 72nd Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference, Des Moines, Iowa (6 December, 2011). Runoff and Sediment Reduction from Integration of Native Prairie Filter Strips into Row-Crop Agriculture.

Zhou, X., M.J. Helmers, H. Asbjornsen, R. Kolka, and M. Tomer. American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, San Francisco, California (6 December, 2011). Nitrogen losses in runoff from row-cropped watershed: Environmental benefits of native prairie filter strips.

Helmers, M.J. Integrated Crop Management Conference in Ames, Iowa (1 December, 2011) Environmental benefits of perennial filter strips in row-cropped watersheds.

Liebman, M. Iowa State University Extension-University of Minnesota Extension-South Dakota State University Extension, Drainage Research Forum, Okoboji, Iowa (22 November, 2011). Biomass production strategies and potential impacts on drained land.

Liebman, M. University of Minnesota, Department of Biosystems and Bioproducts Engineering, seminar, St. Paul, Minnesota (17 November, 2011). Using biodiversity to link agricultural productivity with environmental quality: results from four field experiments in Iowa.

Ohde, R.A. and M.E. O’Neal. Entomological Society of America Annual Meeting, Reno, Nevada (13-16 November, 2011). Do reconstructed prairies affect predation rates of soybean aphids (Aphis glycines) at the watershed scale?

Helmers, M.J., H. Asbjornsen, X. Zhou, R. Kolka, M. Tomer, and R. Cruse. ASA-CSSA-SSSA Annual Meeting Abstracts., San Antonio, Texas (Oct. 16-19, 2011). Field monitoring of water quality in agricultural landscapes: Environmental benefits of vegetative filter strips.

Helmers, M.J. Crops and Agricultural Engineers Extension Professional Development meeting near Prairie City, Iowa (30 September, 2011). Can conservation complement agriculture?

Liebman, M. Soil Science Society of America, annual meeting, San Antonio, Texas (18 September 2011). Using biodiversity to link agricultural productivity with environmental quality: results from three field experiments in Iowa.

Helmers, M. Field Day near Prairie City, Iowa (6 September, 2011). Water quality impacts of targeted perennial placement.

Liebman, M. Iowa State University, field day, Prairie City, Iowa (6 September, 2011). The STRIPS at Neal Smith project: Science based Trials of Row-crops Integrated with Perennials.

Lockett, D. American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers Annual International Meeting, Louisville, Kentucky (7-10 August, 2011). Impacts of Incorporating Prairie Vegetation within Row Crop Production on Soil Hydraulic Properties. (Poster Presentation)

Harris, M. Field Extension Education Laboratory, Workshop on Beneficial Insects, Ames, Iowa (4 August, 2011). Iowa Pollinators.

Helmers, M.J. Field Day near Greenfield, Iowa (27 July, 2011). Water quality impacts of targeted perennial placement.

Helmers, M.J., H. Asbjornsen, M. Liebman, L. Schulte Moore, M. O’Neal, R. Kolka, J. Tyndall, J. Arbuckle, M. Harris, M. Tomer, N. Grudens-Schuck, R. Cruse, J. Neal, P. Drobney, T. Sauer, C. Witte, M. Castellano. USDA AFRI/NRI Managed Ecosystems Project Directors Meeting, Washington D.C (19-21 July, 2011). Learning and teaching with experimental watersheds: evaluation of ecosystem services in mixed annual-perennial agroecosystems. (Poster Presentation)

Helmers, M.J. Field Day in Linn County, Iowa (13 July, 2011). Water infiltration and nutrient cycling in both ag and urban environments.

Arbuckle, J. Gordon Jr. Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Area 3 All Employees Meeting, Edgewood, Iowa (21 June 2011). Social Science Perspectives on Current Conservation Topics: Targeted Conservation and Non-Operator Landowners.

Liebman, M. State of Iowa Soil Conservation Commission, Prairie City, Iowa (14 June, 2011). The STRIPS at Neal Smith project: Science based Trials of Row-crops Integrated with Perennials.

Larsen, GL D., Lisa A Schulte, John C Tyndall, and Nancy Grudens-Schuck. . International Symposium on Society and Resource Management, Madison, Wisconsin (7 June, 2011). Farming for ecosystem services: A case study of stakeholder perception in central Iowa.

Liebman, M. Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, advisory board retreat, Coon Rapids, Iowa (1 June, 2011). Emerging issues in Iowa agriculture.

Liebman, M. Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, sustainability and resilience workshop, Ames, Iowa (25 May, 2011). Sustainability and resilience in Iowa agriculture.

Liebman, M. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, seminar, Urbana, Illinois (29 April, 2011). Impacts of biodiversity in agricultural systems: results from field experiments in Iowa.

Hirsh, S. BIGMAP Symposium (Biosafety Institute for Genetically Modified Agricultural Products)- "Co-existence, Choice, and Sustainability for Crop Production" , Ames, Iowa (19-20 April, 2011). Diversifying Monoculture Crops by Incorporating Prairie Buffer Strips. (Poster Presentation)

Liebman, M. University of Guelph, Department of Plant Agriculture,seminar, Guelph, Ontario, Canada (8 March, 2011). Impacts of biodiversity in agricultural systems: results from three field experiments in Iowa.

Arbuckle, J. Gordon Jr. Iowa Water Conference, Ames, Iowa (7 March, 2011). Farmer Perspectives on Targeted Conservation Approaches: Policy and Program Implications.

Liebman, M. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, Climate Prediction Application Science workshop, Prairie City, Iowa (2 March, 2011). STRIPS: Science-based Trials of Row-crops Integrated with Prairies.

Liebman, M. Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society and University of Nebraska Extension, Rural Advantage and Healthy Farms Conference, Columbus, Nebraska (18 February, 2011). Managing cropping systems to address challenges from weather, rising energy costs, and weeds.

Helmers, M.J. Nutrient Efficiency and Management Conference in Rochester, Minnesota (15 February, 2011). A new twist on old conservation practices – Waterways, terraces, buffers, control structures, and targeting perennials.

Liebman, M. Practical Farmers of Iowa, research cooperators meeting, Ames, Iowa (10 February, 2011). Managing cropping systems to address challenges from weather, rising energy costs, and weeds.

Hernandez-Santana, V, Zhou, X, Helmers, MJ, Asbjornsen, H, Kolka, R. 2010 Fall Meeting, AGU, San Francisco, CA (13-17 December, 2010). Perennial strips reduce runoff and contaminant export in annual cropping systems in the corn belt region, USA.

Helmers, M.J. Cedar River Watershed Coalition, Waterloo, IA (12 November, 2010). Incorporating native prairie on agricultural land for reducing runoff and improving water quality.

Helmers, M.J., H. Asbjornsen, X. Zhou, R. Kolka, M. Tomer and R. Cruse. ASA, CSSA, and SSSA 2010 International Annual Meetings, Long Beach, CA (31 October – 4 November). Integration of perennials in rowcrop agriculture for enhancing water quality in central Iowa. (Poster Presentation)

Liebman, M. Environmental Defense Fund, Science Day, San Francisco, CA (26 October, 2010). Balancing agricultural productivity with environmental quality in the Corn Belt.

Helmers, M.J. Anatomy of Iowa Floods: Preparing for the Future, Des Moines, IA (21 October, 2010). Trends and strategies in water run-off.

Liebman, M. Iowa State University, One Health Symposium: People, Plants, and Animals, Ames, IA (15 September, 2010). STRIPS: Science-based Trials of Row-crops Integrated with Prairies.

Harris, M. 2010 Ecosystem Management Seminar Series, University of New England, Armidale, NSW Australia (2 September, 2010). Ecosystem services in an agricultural landscape.

Liebman, M. Western Illinois University, Allison Farm field day, Roseville, IL (12 August, 2010). Managing cropping systems to address challenges from weather, energy costs, and weeds.

Liebman, M. Soil and Water Conservation Society, workshop on managing agricultural landscapes for environmental quality, Denver, CO (29 April, 2010). The role of bioenergy in sustainable landscapes.

Helmers, M.J. Tallgrass Prairie Center seminar, Cedar Falls, IA (March, 2010). Using Perennial Vegetation to Reduce Nutrient and Sediment Loss in Surface Runoff.

Helmers, M.J. Iowa Water Conference, Ames, IA (March 2010). Landscape Scale Nutrient Reductions from Nonpoint Sources: Science Perspective.

Liebman, M. University of Wisconsin-Madison, Grasslands bioenergy symposium, Madison, WI (16 February, 2010). King Corn and the prairie.

Helmers, M.J. and M. Liebman. Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Farming Conference, LaCrosse, WI (February 2010). Prairie Strips for Habitat Enhancement and Erosion Control.

 

Publications:

Jordan, N., L.A. Schulte, C. Williams, D. Mulla, D. Pitt, C. Schively-Slotterback, R. Jackson, D. Landis, B. Dale, D. Becker, M. Rickenbach, M. Helmers, and R. Bringi. In press. Landlabs: an integrated approach to creating agricultural enterprises that meet the triple bottom line. Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement.

Schulte Moore, L. 2013. Farm Bill politics may prove devastating to the environment. Scientific American. On-line Forum:  http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=farm-bill-politics-may-prove-devastating-environment&flushCache=1.

Tyndall J.C., G. Roesch. In Review. A Standardized Approach to the Financial Analysis of Structural Water Quality BMPs. Journal of Extension.

Tyndall, J., L.A. Schulte, M. Liebman, M. Helmers. 2013. Field-Level Financial Assessment of Contour Prairie Strips for Environmental Quality Enhancement. Environmental Management. 52(3): 736-747.

Asbjornsen, H., V. Hernández-Santana, V., M. Liebman, J. Bayala, J. Chen, M.J. Helmers, C.K. Ong, and L.A. Schulte-Moore. 2013. Targeting perennial vegetation in agricultural landscapes for enhancing ecosystem services. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems.

Hernandez-Santana. V, X. Zhou, M. Helmers, H. Abjornsen, R. Kolka, M. Tomer. 2013. Native prairie filter strips reduce runoff from hillslopes under annual row-crop systems in Iowa, USA. Journal of Hydrology. 477: 94-103.

Liebman, M., M.J. Helmers, L.A. Schulte, and C.A. Chase. 2013. Using biodiversity to link agricultural productivity with environmental quality: results from three field experiments in Iowa.Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems 28: 115-128.

MacDonald, A.L. 2012. Blurring the lines between production and conservation lands: Bird use of prairie strips in row-cropped landscapes. M.S. Thesis. Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.

Liebman, M., C.A. Chase, R. Dietzel, S.M. Hirsh, M.J. Helmers, M.E. Jarchow, and L.A. Schulte. 2012. Using biodiversity to link agricultural productivity and profitability with environmental quality: Results from three field experiments in Iowa. Abstracts of the 2012 Ecological Society of America International Meeting. On-line at: http://eco.confex.com/eco/2012/preliminaryprogram/abstract_33365.htm.

Mitchell, D.C. 2012. Nitrogen sources and sinks in Iowa soils: biogeochemical links between carbon inputs, nitrate leaching, and nitrous oxide emissions. M.S. Thesis Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa

Lockett, D. 2012. Soil Hydraulic Property Impacts of Incorporating Prairie Vegetation within a Row Crop Production Area. M.S. thesis. Iowa State Univ., Ames, Iowa.

Helmers, M.J., X. Zhou, H. Asbjornsen, R. Kolka, M.D. Tomer, and R. Cruse. 2012. Sediment removal by perennial filter strips in row-cropped ephemeral watersheds. Journal of Environmental Quality.

Ohde, R. 2012. The use of reconstructed prairies in Iowa’s agricultural landscape to increase ecosystem services and create a multifunctional landscape. M.S. thesis. Iowa State University., Ames, Iowa.

Doudna, J., M.J. Helmers, and M. O’Neal. 2011. Can conservation complement agriculture? In: Proceedings of the 23rd Annual Integrated Crop Management Conference (November 30 and December 1, Iowa State University, Ames, IA), pp. 129-130.

Helmers, M.J., X. Zhou, H. Asbjornsen, R. Kolka, and M. Tomer. 2011. Water quality benefits of perennial filter strips in row cropped watersheds. In: Proceedings of the 23rd Annual Integrated Crop Management Conference (November 30 and December 1, Iowa State University, Ames, IA), pp. 139-144.

Larsen, GL D. 2011. Farming for ecosystem services: a case study of multifunctional agriculture in Iowa, USA. MS Thesis. Iowa State University, Ames, IA.

Liebman, M., M.J. Helmers, and L.A. Schulte. 2011. Integrating conservation with biofuel feedstock production. Pages 131-142 in: P. Nowak and M. Schnepf (eds.), Managing Agricultural Landscapes for Environmental Quality II: Achieving More Effective Conservation. Soil and Water Conservation Society, Ankeny, IA.

Liebman, M., M.J. Helmers, and L.A. Schulte. 2011. Integrating conservation with biofuel feedstock production. Pages 131-142 in: P. Nowak and M. Schnepf (eds.), Managing Agricultural Landscapes for Environmental Quality II: Achieving More Effective Conservation. Soil and Water Conservation Society, Ankeny, IA.

Lockett, D., X. Zhou, M.J. Helmers. 2011. Impacts of incorporating prairie vegetation within row crop production on soil hydraulic properties. American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) 2011 Annual International Meeting. Louisville, Kentucky. 7-10 August 2011. Paper No. 1111508.

Schmidt, N.P., M.E. O’Neal, and L.A. Schulte. 2011. Effects of grassland habitat and plant nutrients on soybean aphid and natural enemy populations. Environmental Entomology. 40: 260-272.

Grudens-Schuck, N. 2010. Creating an extension booklet about agriculture and prairie [Video 38 min.]. Ames, IA: Iowa State University, Department of Agricultural Education and The Brenton Center.

Maher, R., H. Asbjornsen, R. Kolka, C. Cambardella, J. Raich. 2010. Changes in soil respiration across a chronosequence of tallgrass prairie reconstructions. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment. 139 (4):749-753.

Perez-Bidegain, M., M. J. Helmers, and R. Cruse. 2010 Modelling phosphorus transport in an agricultural watershed using the WEPP model. Journal of Environmental Quality. 39: 2121-2129.

Zhou, X., M. J. Helmers, H. Asbjornsen, R. Kolka, and M. Tomer. 2010. Perennial filter strips reduce nitrate levels in soil and shallow groundwater after grassland-to-cropland conversion. Journal of Environmental Quality 39(6): 2006-2015.

 

Additional Outreach including Media:

November 15, 2013. Lisa Schulte visited a committed adopter's farm outside Makoqueta in Jackson Co., Iowa in preparation for STRIPs implementation.

November 11, 2013. Matt Helmers visited a farm in Iowa Co., Iowa in preparation for STRIPs implementation.

November 5, 2013. L. Schulte visited sites at Maffitt Reservoir, part of Des Moines Water Works in Polk Co. and a private landownder's site near Red Oak in Montgomery Co., Iowa in preparation for STRIPs implementation.

October 21-24, 2013. M. Harris attended the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign (NAPPC) Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. and delivered a presentation on STRIPs in Iowa.

October 18, 2013. STRIPs research team members M. Harris, M. Helmers, M. Liebman and J. Neal visited the Roverud Family Partnership Farm outside Elkader in Clayton County where the STRIPs practice has been implemented and a field day is planned for June 2014.

October 11, 2013. STRIPs materials were distributed at the Iowa Environmental Council annual conference in Des Moines.

October 2, 2013. M. Harris visited the ISU McNay Research and Demonstration Farm in Washington Co., Iowa in preparation for STRIPs implementation and a Field Day in 2014.

September 10, 2013. Prairie strips offer conservation potential In Clean Water Starts With Us, WATERSHED IMPROVEMENT IN IOWA, DNR DSC NRCS Fall 2013 newsletter. Download the article at: http://www.iowadnr.gov/Portals/idnr/uploads/water/watershed/files/enews2/wisnews0913.pdf

September 4, 2013. A new publication was prepared What Soil and Water Conservation Commissioners Can Do to Get Prairie Conservation Strips (attached at end of report) for the annual conference of the Iowa Soil and Water District Commissioners in West Des Moines.

August 20, 2013. Land Stewardship Project. “Ear to the Ground 136” http://landstewardshipproject.org/posts/485

August 8, 2013. M. Harris delivered a presentation titled "Bridging The Public-Private Land Divide - Supporting Biodiversity Conservation and Ecosystem Services By Tapping The Ingenuity In Social-Ecological Systems" which detailed the STRIPs practice at the Ecological Society of America National meeting in Minneapolis, MN.

August 3, 2013. M. Harris attended the all day event Hoover Hometown Days at the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site in West Branch. The public was able to view materials at the STRIPs display and talk about possible practice adoption on their land and at the Hoover Historic Site (planned for adoption in 2014).

July 17, 2013. M. Harris visited the ISU Armstrong Research and Demonstration Farm in Pottawattamie Co., Iowa in preparation for STRIPs implementation and a Field Day in 2014.

July 17, 2013. M. Harris presented a talk to the East Pottawattamie SWCD commissioners and others in attendance. The practice was very well received with an hour long discussion ensuing as to potential sites for adoption.

June 27, 2013. M. Harris presented a talk at the Boone county meeting of Soil and Water Conservation District commissioners June 27

June 25, 2013. STRIPs materials were distributed at the Iowa Association of Agricultural Educators Trade Show in Ankeny.

June 12, 2013 News release: Laws, L., and L.A. Schulte Moore. Communicating a new vision for Iowa agriculture. Available at: http://www.ag.iastate.edu/features/2013/communicating-new-vision-iowa-agriculture/.

April 9, 2013. News Release: Laws, L., and L.A. Schulte Moore. ISU Prairie Strips Study Yields Options to Improve Conservation. Available at:  http://www.ag.iastate.edu/news/releases/1084/. This was followed by radio interviews with WHO Radio – DesMoines, KMA Radio – Shenandoah, and Iowa Public Radio – Ames.

March 1, 2013. U.S. Forestry Service Northern Research Station Featured Research. “Science-based Trials of Rowcrops Integrated with Prairies”. http://www.nrs.fs.fed.us/featured/2013/03/

January 2013. U.S. Forestry Service Northern Research Station Highlights. “NRS: Environmental Health and Community Vitality in Agricultural Landscapes - Incorporating perennial plants into row crops has far-reaching benefits”.

2013. A series of "How to Guides" for those interested in adopting the STRIPs practice is being edited for printing March 2014.

2013. Roadside interpretive signage to be located alongside a STRIPs research site at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge is under development and scheduled for May installation. The installation will include a container offering visitors the new publication, Small Changes, Big Impacts: Prairie Conservaton Strips.

2013. A new STRIPs publication targeting a general audience, Small Changes, Big Impacts: Prairie Conservaton Strips, is scheduled for printing in Feb. 2014.

2013. 1,500 copies were printed of a new publication The Cost of Prairie Conservation Strips. Download the publication at: http://www.leopold.iastate.edu/sites/default/files/pubs-and-papers/2013-08-cost-prairie-conservation-strips.pdf

2013. 1,500 copies were printed of the updated Landowners Guide to Prairie Conservation Strips. Download the publication at: http://www.leopold.iastate.edu/sites/default/files/pubs-and-papers/2013-08-landowners-guide-prairie-conservation-strips.pdf

2013. Web video: University of Minnesota Grown to Run Project. Novel approaches to delivering food, fuel, and fiber. Available at:  http://g2rminnesota.ning.com/ and http://g2rminnesota.ning.com/.

2013. Web video: Iowa Learning Farms. Adventures of the Conservation Pack – Episode 2. Available at: http://water-rocks.herokuapp.com/videos/adventures-of-the-conservation-pack.

2013. Podcast: Ecological Society of America. Making room for prairie STRIPs: Lisa Schulte Moore (Land Sharing/Sparing #1). Available at: http://www.esa.org/fieldtalk/making-room-for-prairie-strips-lisa-schulte-moore-land-sharingsparing-1.

December 17, 2012. Visited Pinhook Farm for surveying locations of STRIPs in field.

November 2012. Living the Country Life Radio. MacDonald participated in a phone interview http://www.livingthecountrylife.com/homes-acreages/managing-your-property/prairie-conservation-strips/

Fall 2012. "Wild About Animals" television show filmed at the Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge.

August 29, 2012. Farm Progress Display in Boone, IA.

July/August 2012. Iowa Department of Natural Resources magazine Iowa Outdoors article “Prairie: A Natural Force Against Global Warming and Water Pollution.”

July 28, 2012. MacDonald presented on STRIPs project to Boone and Greene Counties Master Conservation Program on at Neal Smith NWR.

Summer 2012. Clean Water Starts With Us. "Mix prairie strips with row crop to slow erosion, help birds."

July 2012. Toured STRIPs project with U.S. Fish&Wildlife Service Grassland Restoration Workshop.

June 11, 2012. Visited Pinhook Farm for STRIPs implementation planning.

May 2012. Toured STRIPs project with Karl Brooks, the regional administrator for EPA Region 7.

May 16, 2012. Iowa Farm Bureau Spokesman. “Prairie strips may offer new conservation tool”.

Spring 2012. Green Together. "Conservation strips give prairie refuge for Iowa birds."  

February 2012. "On The Ground with the Leopold Center" online video series. "Testing a Trio: Prairie Strips, Row Crops and Birds”. http://www.leopold.iastate.edu/news/on-the-ground/testing-trio-prairie-strips-row-crops-and-birds

January 2012. The Farmer-Stockman. “Grass strips control erosion on slopes, cut nutrient loss”.

January 2012. Kansas Farmer. “Grass strips control erosion”.

January 7, 2012. A. MacDonald informally shared information and materials about the STRIPs project with approximately 15 individuals at the Iowa Pheasants Forever State Convention and Habitat Meeting, including Pheasants Forever staff and Farm Bill Biologists.

2011. Land Stewardship Letter 29(2): 14-15. Titled “Stripping it down to nature”.

December 2011. Article in Nebraska Farmer titled “Vegetative alternative controls erosion”.

December 2011. Article in The Michigan Farmer titled “Prairie grasses found to reduce erosion”.

November 2011. Article in The Farmer titled “Grass strips control erosion on slopes, cut nutrient loss”.

November 2011. Article in Prairie Farmer titled “Prairie conservation strips: new tool for erosion control”.

November 2011. Article in Ohio Farmer titled “Prairie grass strips control erosion”.

November 2011. Article in Missouri Ruralist titled “Prairie conservation strips control erosion”.

October 10, 2011. Television channel WHO broadcasts interviews of Matt Liebman and Gary Van Ryswyk.

October 2011. A. MacDonald and Lisa Schulte-Moore contributed to the “Landowner’s Guide to Prairie Conservation Strips” pamphlet released by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture.

August 17, 2011. A. MacDonald joined the Iowa State University’s Wallace Chair Advisory Committee meeting (with Matt Liebman) to share her work on the bird biodiversity aspect of the STRIPs project with 7 committee members in attendance.

2011 Fall semester at ISU. Mary Harris included examples of STRIPS research in several lectures of NREM 305 – Introduction to Wildlife and Fisheries. 40 students

September 6, 2011. Public Field Day with Iowa Learning Farms. Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge.

September 2011. GL D. Larsen, T.G. Knoot, and J.C. Tyndall produced “From science to practice: findings from the 2011 STRIPS project stakeholder meeting (June 21, 2011)” for the stakeholders of the Science-based Trials of Row-crops Integrated with Prairie (STRIPs) Research Project at Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge.

June 24, 2011. Land Stewardship Project’s “Ear to the Ground” podcast #103 about “Using native prairie strips to make row crop fields more sustainable.”

June 21, 2011. 5th Stakeholder meeting and field day. Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge.

February 15, 2011. Article on the Neal Smith STRIPS project, “Big Bluestem On the Slope: Using Native Plants in Contour Strip-Cropping Systems”, published on The Progressive Farmer’s website. http://www.dtnprogressivefarmer.com/dtnag/common/link.do;jsessionid=68ED2BAAE7BA9818C9E03EC960524D89.agfreejvm2?symbolicName=/free/landmanagement/news/template1&product=/ag/news/landmanagement&vendorReference=0702DDC6&paneContentId=70119&paneParentId=70104

February 2011. Gary Van Ryswyk was featured in an article in The Progressive Farmer. “The perks of perennials: permanent prairie strips reduce erosion, keep nutrients in place and build organic matter”.

November 15, 2010. Project site visit with Bill Ehm and Pat Boddy of Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

October 6, 2010. Project site visit and results shared as part of Green Fire Productions Documentary titled “Ocean Frontiers”

September 23, 2010. Project results were shared at the Integrated Roadside Vegetation Management Conference in Ames, IA

August 27, 2010. Project results were shared at a Field Day in Cosgrove, IA

August 3, 2010. Project site visit as part of the North American Prairie Conference

July 9, 2010. Project site visit as part of the IA-MS Farmer to Farmer Exchange

June 25, 2010. 4th Stakeholder meeting and field day. Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge.

April 29, 2010 Preliminary project findings were included in an article in Iowa Farmer Today. (http://www.iowafarmertoday.com/articles/2010/04/29/top_stories/soilfilter1.txt)

Project Outcomes

Recommendations:

Areas needing additional study

This project has been successful in documenting the potential for water quality benefits of integrating NPV strips. There are still needs however. These include documenting the long-term management of the NPV strips and if they continue to provide the water quality benefits documented in this project. It would also be informative to find the limits, in regards to the relationship between least percent field coverage and greatest slope, to which NPV strips provide cost-effective water quality improvements. This would help farmers decide whether NPV strips are right for their fields. A critical next step is understanding how these systems are best designed and implemented on farmers’ fields. This is a next step the project team is taking by working with producers in Iowa to implement demonstration sites for evaluation.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.