What Are Prairie Strips?

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Prairie strip in Tama County, Iowa

Prairie Strips 

Prairie strips are a conservation practice that protects soil and water while providing habitat for wildlife. The STRIPS (Science-based Trails of Rowcrops Integrated with Prairie Strips) team has been conducting research on prairie strips for over ten years and we have shown that integrating small amounts of prairie into strategic locations within corn and soybean fields -- in the form of in-field contour buffer strips and edge-of-field filter strips -- can yield disproportionate benefits for soil, water, and biodiversity. Prairie strips provide these disproportionate benefits to a greater degree than other perennial vegetation types because of the diversity of native plant species incorporated, their deep and multilayered root systems, and  their stiff-stems that hold up in a driving rain. STRIPS research also shows that prairie strips is one of the most affordable and environmentally beneficial agricultural conservation practices available. To hear from STRIPS scientists, farmers, and technical service providers watch our informational movie.

Disproportional Benefits

As all farmers know, not every acre of land produces the same yield. Low-yielding acres are a great opportunity to integrate perennial vegetation, reducing the cost of inputs otherwise spent on low-yielding acres. A similar idea applies to conservation: some areas of a field or landscape yield higher conservation benefits than others. By targeting those areas that have a high conservation value and low economic return, farmers and landowners can gain disproportionate environmental benefits while reducing the cost of inputs. Research shows that by converting 10% of a crop-field to diverse, native perennial vegetation, farmers and landowners can reduce sediment movement off their field by 95 percent and total phosphorous and nitrogen lost through runoff by 90 and 85 percent, respectively. Prairie strips provide a win-win scenario for farmers and wildlife.

Join the Movement!

As of 2019, over 60 farmer and farmland owner collaborators are farming with prairie strips to demonstrate how the practice functions on different landscapes and soil types. Prairie strips have been established in Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Illinois. Are you a landowner interested in implementing prairie strips? Learn more by exploring the resources on our Practice Establishment and Management  page or contact us at prairiestrips@iastate.edu.