To date, we’ve seen no effects of prairie strips on yields in adjacent cropped areas. Of course, converting cropland to prairie strips will reduce the amount of land that is cropped. Payments for prairie strips from federal conservation programs and other sources can help offset this cost. Read more about FAQ: Will prairie strips help increase my crop yield?
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?
Prairie strips provide both abundant and diverse flowering plants to agricultural landscapes, which are essential for supporting honey bees and conserving wild bees and butterflies. Flowers provide critical food resources for these insects: nectar for adult bees and butterflies, and pollen for the young bees. Furthermore, a growing body of scientific literature indicates that bee health is improved when they are provided a diverse diet of plants. Read more about FAQ: Will prairie strips help pollinators?
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?
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?
Prairie strips are a conservation tool that can be used in both conventional and organic farming operations. In conventional farming operations, precision herbicide management is useful. Native forbs (i.e., wildflowers) in the prairie strips are broadleaf plants and can be damaged or even killed by direct contact with herbicide. Once established, native grasses and forbs have deep root systems that help create a durable, resilient plant community. Read more about FAQ: Are prairie strips only for organic operations?
Prairie strips are planted with native, perennial prairie species. Species include grasses, forbs (i.e., wildflowers), legumes, and sedges. Typically, plantings include stiff-stemmed warm season grasses (e.g., Indiangrass, big bluestem, little bluestem) and a wide range of erect forbs, including species of aster, beebalm, blazing star, bush clover, coneflower, goldenrod, and native sunflower. Read more about FAQ: What kind of plants are actually in the prairie strips?