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Frequently Asked Questions

diversified farmPrairie strips are a farmland conservation practice that uses strategically placed native prairie plantings in crop fields. The practice has been tested by the STRIPS team since 2007 on experimental plots at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge and increasingly on commercial farms across Iowa. Here we present our responses to the Frequently Asked Questions we receive on prairie strips at conferences and field days, and through email. The information was prepared by team members, and will be updated over time as needed, as we continue to learn. The answers below are general in nature, and may not apply in specific situations. Resources are provided with each answer. Read more about Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ: 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. Read more about FAQ: Why did you start your experiment at a National Wildlife Refuge?

FAQ: Will prairie strips eliminate erosion completely?

Prairie strips will not completely eliminate erosion, and you may still need grass waterways. Data from our initial work at Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge has shown that prairie strips can dramatically reduce sediment loss from the field, but there are still signs of in-field erosion, especially along the fall line of the watershed where a grass waterway could be quite effective. Read more about FAQ: Will prairie strips eliminate erosion completely?

FAQ: How are prairie strips different from contour buffers and grass strips?

Contour buffers are typically planted with fixed widths. In contrast, we vary the width of the prairie strips based on the amount of water they intercept, with the goal of treating all of the runoff leaving the crop field. Where more water is flowing down-slope, prairie strips should be wider, and where less water is flowing down-slope, the strips can be narrower. Read more about FAQ: How are prairie strips different from contour buffers and grass strips?