Prairie Strip Design and Placement


Prairie Strip Design Considerations

The following are some general guidelines to consider when strategically incorporating prairie on the land.

Photo by Anna McDonald

Prairie Strip Placement

Prairie strips should be properly placed to gain the most benefit. Every farm is unique, however, the most benefit is likely to occur if placed where erosion frequently occurs, crop yields are low, or where soil, water, or wildlife need extra protection.

Prairie strips are most applicable to fields with steeper slopes similar to the STRIPS experimental research fields, which have slopes ranging from 4 to 10% (Schulte et al., 2017). Approximately, 40% of row croplands in Iowa may benefit from prairie strips (Schulte et al., 2017).


Click the link to learn more about: How does the placement of prairie strips affect water quality gains?


Basic design recommendations:

  • Install strips of perennial prairie species in areas where they can intercept the water flow gaining the most benefit.
  • Place prairie strips of varying size at the foot slope of a watershed where the prairie can intercept the water flow before it leaves the water shed.
  • Install additional narrow strips located at various positions in the field running along the contour to intercept the water


Additional Considerations:

  • Prairie strips can vary in width depending on the location, but a minimum of 15 feet is required for Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) contracts.
  • If the prairie strips are being installed as part of a Farm Service Agency (FSA) or NRCS conservation program the design should be created to gain the most benefit and meet the program requirements.

Neal Smith Flume Site

Pictured above is an example of prairie planted along a contour and at the foot slope on a STRIPS experimental research field.


How much land should be planted into prairie?

The amount of land which should be planted into prairie will vary from farm to farm. Generally, the target goal is to convert approximately 10% of the cropland into prairie. Depending on the goals of the land owner, topography, and impact to field operations, the amount of land converted into prairie may be more or less than 10%. Participation in conservation programs may also impact the amount of land placed into prairie.

Downslope Illustration

How To Create A Design

Work with a Prairie Strips Consultant or the STRIPS team to create a design which meets the needs of the farmer and the land.

The STRIPS team has been awarded grants from the McKnight Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation to train Technical Service Providers (TSPs) and Certified Crop Advisers (CCAs) and other educators for certification in prairie strips design, establishment, and monitoring.

Working closely with a local Prairie Strips Consultant will help to ensure the success of your project. Contact the STRIPS Team to help locate a Prairie Strips Consultant in your area. More information on locating a prairie strip consultant will come later in the module.

Natural Resources Conservation Service

Local NRCS offices can provide design assistance to establish filter and buffer strips. If funding from the FSA or NRCS conservation programs is being used for the project it will be necessary to follow the appropriate program requirements. The Iowa Conservation Practice Job Sheets can be downloaded as a PDF using the links below.

Filter Strips:

Conservation Practice Standard Overview: Filter Strip Standard (393)

Contour Buffer Strips:

Conservation Practice Standard Overview: Contour Buffer Strips (332)

Critical Planting Area:

Conservation Practice Standard Overview: Critical Planting Area (342)

Conservation Cover:

Conservation Practice Standard Overview: Conservation Cover (327)



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