Download a ISU Extension report on how targeting key portions of row-crop fields to perennial vegetation can lead to dramatic improvements in environmental benefits on farmland:
Access to a variety of inexpensive, safe, and high quality foods can be credited to the productivity and efficiency of grain crop production techniques used today. However, the agronomic techniques used to manage the majority of grain acres are associated with some negative effects, including soil erosion, impaired water quality, and declining biodiversity in the Midwestern United States. Read more about Chapter 2: Introduction
Challenge #1: Soil Erosion from Agricultural Fields
Land degradation due to soil erosion
Soil erosion adversely impacts agronomic productivity. Additionally, soil erosion negatively impacts the environment, food security, and quality of life. The effects of soil erosion have both on-site and off-site impacts. For example, on-site impacts may include reduced crop yield and increased nutrient loss, while off-site impacts may include water contamination and increased food prices.
Three reasons why soil erosion is an important issue: Read more about Challenge #1: Soil Erosion from Agricultural Fields
Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy
“The Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy is a science and technology-based framework to assess and reduce nutrients to Iowa waters and the Gulf of Mexico. It is designed to direct efforts to reduce nutrients in surface water from both point and nonpoint sources in a scientific, reasonable and cost effective manner” (ISU, 2017b). Read more about A Nutrient Reduction Strategy with Matt Helmers
Challenge #2: Reduced Water Quality
Nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus, and suspended soil sediments have greatly diminished water quality (USEPA, 2017a). Polluted water with unusually high concentrations of dissolved or suspended materials, or small amounts of highly toxic materials can be detrimental and sometimes even deadly to living things. Civilization has many uses for and is dependent on high-quality water (Troeh et al., 2004).
Major agricultural contributions to reduced water quality include: Read more about Challenge #2: Reduced Water Quality
Prairie Strips - One Possible Solution
The integration of prairie strips into row crops is one possible solution to address the challenges facing Midwest farmers. Read more about Chapter 4: Prairie Strips - One Possible Solution
Maintenance - Ongoing Management
Maintenance Year 1:
During the first year of establishment prairie plant species will use their energy mainly for root growth. It is important to allow sunlight to reach the soil surface and the prairie plants (STRIPS, 2017b). Annual weed pressure will be the greatest during the first year and will decrease in subsequent years. Read more about Maintenance - Ongoing Management