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How Prairie Strips Address Midwestern Farmer Challenges

Challenge #1 How can Prairie Strips reduce Soil Erosion?

The flumes pictured below are used to measure runoff from the STRIPS watersheds. Note the difference in the amount of sediment displaced between pictures 1, 2 and 3. Picture 1 represents a 100% no-till crop field with corn and soybean rotation compared to just 10% prairie treatment in picture 2 and 100% prairie in picture 3. Read more about How Prairie Strips Address Midwestern Farmer Challenges

Prairie Strip Installation and Establishment

Installation and Establishment

Prairie strips are most easily established in fields which have previously been used for tilled annual row crop production (Jarchow and Liebman, 2011). Seeding following soybeans is especially favored for prairie strip establishment because the tilled field will have a reduced seed bank of annual weed seed and the soybean stubble will decompose readily (Jarchow and Liebman, 2011).

Nonetheless, if the correct procedures are followed prairie can be easily established following any crop or land cover. Read more about Prairie Strip Installation and Establishment

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: Where can I see prairie strips?

In Iowa, on-farm: Several Iowa State University Research and Demonstration Farms host prairie strips, including the Armstrong Memorial Farm near Lewis, McNay Memorial Farm near Chariton, Neeley-Kinyon Memorial Farm near Greenfield, and the Southeast Farm near Crawfordsville. These farms are open to the public for viewing during business hours. On-farm implementations of prairie strips at private farms are periodically featured at field days organized by either the STRIPS team or partner organizations. Check for announcements on this website or follow us on Twitter (@prairiestrips) to find out about these events. 

In Iowa, original research site: In Iowa, you can visit the original STRIPS research sites at Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge, but please check in at the refuge’s headquarters, the Prairie Learning Center, for directions and other information before visiting the sites. Signs directing refuge visitors to the STRIPS sites are being developed.  Additional public sites are under development, so stay tuned!

Beyond Iowa: Beyond Iowa, farmers and farmland owners have used native species for planting in-field buffer strips among row crops, often under the USDA NRCS Contour Buffer Strip standard. We are not currently partnering to provide field tours of location where farmers or farmland owners are using prairie strips, which combine consideration watershed area and water flow paths, highly diverse native plantings (~30 species of grasses and wildflowers), and in-field contour buffer and edge-of-field filter strips. Work is underway with partners in Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin to implement research and demonstration areas with prairie strips. Read more about FAQ: Where can I see prairie strips?

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