Cover crops are grasses or other vegetation farmers plant before, during or after the harvest season. Cover crops have many benefits including erosion control, water retention, weed suppression, improving nutrient uptake and building of soil organic matter. ISA Research teams work with farmers to adopt cover crops into their operations.
Habitat restoration transitions environmentally-sensitive land from agricultural production to diverse native plant species. The presence of native perennials improves environmental quality as well as pollinator and wildlife habitat. Cost-share programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) are in place to help compensate landowners for taking these marginal crop areas out of production.
This emerging practice converts 10 percent of a crop field with strategically-placed strips of native perennials. The practice has been shown to reduce soil erosion by 95 percent and reduce nitrogen lost through runoff by 90 percent. It also improves habitat for pollinators such as butterflies and bees. For more information on prairie strips, visit www.prairiestrips.org.
Conservation drainage practices reduce nitrate losses through several drainage system modifications and edge-of-field practices. Systems include: controlled drainage or drainage water management, drainage water recycling, bioreactors, saturated buffers, wetlands and shallow drainage.
The North Central Region Water Network is a group of extension professionals and ag organizations including the Iowa Soybean Association. The group created a materials kit detailing information on these types of drainage water management. Visit their webpage that contains materials for “Ten Ways to Reduce Nitrogen Loads from Drained Cropland in the Midwest.” Materials include a booklet, 4-page fact sheet, PowerPoint slides and a walk-through guide.
Transforming Drainage is a 5-year, 8-state project led by a core group of 15 leading agricultural engineers, soil scientists, agronomists, economists, social scientists, and database and GIS specialists with a common vision — to transform the way drainage is implemented across the agricultural landscape.
Visit the the Resources & Publications page for more resources.