FAQ: Why did you start your experiment at a National Wildlife Refuge?

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Why did you start your experiment at a National Wildlife Refuge?

Iowa’s plentiful agriculture draws on the diminishing heritage of native prairies: rich soils, biodiversity, cleaned water and controlled erosion –  services that are impaired by today’s agricultural practices. Are there practices that mix row-crop agriculture and prairie to develop win/win systems? The 6,400-acre Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge in Jasper County in central Iowa provided a unique opportunity for researchers to test practices on a "whole" watershed.

Related primary considerations for selecting the site were “biophysical” – the availability of monitoring data and the similarity of paired sites. Social, political and economic criteria, while very important, were assumed to be adaptable to the selected watersheds. The original research project continues in 14 watersheds at the refuge. They are farmed by an area farmer.

Biodiversity and social-political questions, not as easily addressed with the Neal Smith design, are focused upon more in our second phase, STRIPS2.

“Whole” watersheds: Whole watersheds aren’t broken up into segments, for example by roads, housing, farms or parking lots.  By using whole watersheds, researchers can fully account for everything that affects the water flows, erosion and nutrient movement within the watershed.

Phase II STRIPS - Implementation: In the current, second stage of the STRIPS work, paired research sites are being added at six different locations in Iowa.  These sites will inform environmental, biological, social and economic research.  Numerous voluntary on-farm installations across the state are adding rich, complementary landowner and farmer knowledge about variability in strip performance on individual properties.

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