Mixing Reconstructed Prairie with Cropland to Balance Food and Biofuel Production with Environmental Quality
Research and outreach efforts were successful in 2012. The growing season was characterized by relatively warm and dry conditions. Native perennial vegetation continued to positively impact sediment and nutrient losses from watersheds via reduced surface water runoff. In addition to surface water, soil water and groundwater samples were collected throughout the field season. On July 20, the 6th annual stakeholders meeting was held. The meeting began with a trip to the field in order to illustrate the idea of STRIPs and how they can provide many benefits. Stations were set up in the field to discuss the various research being conducted. After returning from the field, lunch was taken. Following lunch, an overview of the various research being conducted was presented along with any updates of note. The highlight of the day was Seth Watkins, a farmer from Clarinda, Iowa, who gave a presentation outlining his operation and explaining why he is interested in implementing STRIPs on some fields he owns. This presentation was very important, as it showed others that the STRIPs concept may have life beyond the realm of scientific research. The meeting was considered successful and informative by all who attended.
During 2012, 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.
Surface runoff in 2012 was reduced by an average of 64% in watersheds that consist of 10% or 20% native prairie cover (Figure 1). Over the last three years, the integrated native plant community has reduced surface runoff considerably, with reduction percentages consistently being greater than 40%.
Consistent with previous years, lower sediment export in surface runoff was observed from watersheds that incorporate 10% or 20% of the area in native prairie (Figure 2). Results for nutrients in runoff continue to be summarized.
Soil water and groundwater samples are being analyzed for nitrate-nitrogen. Overall, after disturbance and tillage in the fall of 2006, an increase in nitrate-nitrogen concentration was observed starting in about August 2007. 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. Despite the relatively young age of these established prairie patches, it appears there is a positive impact on belowground nitrate-nitrogen concentrations.
For the sixth consecutive year, a stakeholders meeting was held at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge, near Prairie City, IA. This meeting allowed researchers to disseminate their findings to interested parties in attendance. Attendees (41) representing 21 groups, ranging from academic, environmental, wildlife, and agricultural interests were present. After a trip to the field to explain efforts and answer research-related questions, attendees gathered at the refuge learning center to listen to farmer Seth Watkins present why he is interested in implementing STRIPs into some of his fields.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Throughout the year, a number of presentations were given at local and national conferences and peer-reviewed publications produced. Also, information from this project was featured in various media outlets. They are listed below:
MacDonald, A.L. M.S. Thesis oral presentation, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa (15 November, 2012). Blurring the lines between production and conservation lands: Bird use of prairie strips in row-cropped landscapes.
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.
Helmers, M.J. Iowa Learning Farms Field Day, Jefferson, Iowa (8 October, 2012). Water quality benefits of perennial filter strips in row-cropped watersheds.
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 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)
Helmers, M.J. Southeast Research Farm Certified Crop Advisor Training, Crawfordsville, Iowa (21 July, 2012). Benefits of strategic placement of perennial systems.
Helmers, M.J. NSF-REU students at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge, Prairie City, Iowa (22 June, 2012). Benefits of strategic placement of perennial systems.
Grudens-Schuck, N., G.L.D. Larsen. Between Scientists and Citizens: Assessing Expertise in Policy Controversies. Convened by the Great Plains Society for the Study of Argumentation, Ames, Iowa (June 1-2, 2012). Using Delphi to track shifts in meanings of scientific concepts in a long-term, expert-lay collaboration on sustainable agriculture research in the midwest.
Liebman Faculty of Land and Food Systems, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British 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.
Doudna, J., M.J. Helmers, M. O’Neal, and J. Tyndall. 2012. Stakeholder perspectives on conservation program implementation in agricultural landscapes. Presented at the Ecological Society of America Annual Conference in Portland, OR.
Liebman, M., C. Chase, R. Dietzel, S. Hirsh, M.J. Helmers, M. Jarchow, and L. Schulte. 2012. Using biodiversity to link agricultural productivity and profitability with environmental quality: Results from three field experiments in Iowa. Presented at the Ecological Society of America Annual Conference in Portland, OR.
Hirsh, S.M., C. Mabry, L. Schulte, and M. Liebman. In review. Diversifying agricultural catchments by incorporating prairie buffer strips. Ecological Restoration.
Tyndall, J., L.A. Schulte, M. Liebman. In review. Field-Level Financial Assessment of Prairie Filter Strips for Water Quality and Biodiversity Enhancement. Environmental Management.
Asbjornsen, H., V. Hernández-Santana, V., M. Liebman, J. Bayala, J. Chen, M.J. Helmers, C.K. Ong, and L.A. Schulte-Moore. In press. 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. In press. Native prairie filter strips reduce runoff from hillslopes under annual row-crop systems in Iowa, USA. Journal of Hydrology.
Liebman, M., M.J. Helmers, L.A. Schulte, and C.A. Chase. In press. Using biodiversity to link agricultural productivity with environmental quality: results from three field experiments in Iowa. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems.
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.
Arbuckle, J. Gordon Jr. Forthcoming 2012. Farmer attitudes toward proactive targeting of agricultural conservation programs. Society & Natural Resources.
Zhou, X., M.J. Helmers, H. Asbjornsen, R. Kolka, M. Tomer, and R. Cruse. In review. Nutrient removal by prairie filter strips in agricultural landscape. Submitted to Journal of Soil and Water Conservation.
Additional Outreach including Media
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.
January 2012. Kansas Farmer. “Grass strips control erosion”.
January 2012. The Farmer-Stockman. “Grass strips control erosion on slopes, cut nutrient loss”.
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
Spring 2012. Green Together. “Conservation strips give prairie refuge for Iowa birds.”
May 10, 2012 – M. Helmers gave interview for Iowa Farm Bureau Federation Minute on conservation practices
May 16, 2012. Iowa Farm Bureau Spokesman. “Prairie strips may offer new conservation tool”.
May 2012. Toured STRIPs project with Karl Brooks, the regional administrator for EPA Region 7.
June 11, 2012. Visited Pinhook Farm for STRIPs implementation planning.
July 2012. Toured STRIPs project with U.S. Fish&Wildlife Service Grassland Restoration Workshop.
Summer 2012. Clean Water Starts With Us. “Mix prairie strips with row crop to slow erosion, help birds.”
July 28, 2012. MacDonald presented on STRIPs project to Boone and Greene Counties Master Conservation Program on at Neal Smith NWR
August 29, 2012. Farm Progress Display in Boone, IA.
Fall 2012. “Wild About Animals” television show filmed at the Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge.
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/
December 17, 2012. Visited Pinhook Farm for surveying locations of STRIPs in field.
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”.
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