AMES, Iowa — Iowa Learning Farms (ILF) is hosting a field day at Hickory Grove Lake, near Colo, on Thursday, Sept. 8, from 5:30-8 p.m. The field day is free, includes a complimentary dinner and the public is invited to attend. The field day is sponsored by ILF and Story County Conservation.
The field day will focus on a water quality improvement project of the lake. Hickory Grove Park is Story County’s largest park and opened in 1968. Hickory Grove Lake is a 100-acre man-made lake that attracts more than 70,000 visitors each year. The lake suffers from water quality issues stemming from soil erosion, debris in-flows and elevated nitrogen levels. It was placed on the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) impaired waters 303(d) list in 2008 for elevated bacteria concentrations. The Iowa DNR Lakes Restoration Program has claimed Hickory Grove Lake as a high priority for improving its water quality.
Attendees to the field day will learn about the lake’s restoration program and about agricultural practices that help to reduce erosion and runoff of soil and sediment into the lake. Speaking at the field day are Iowa State University (ISU) agronomy professor Rick Cruse, who will discuss the Environmental Working Group report “Losing Ground” as well as the Iowa Daily Erosion Project. ISU animal science professor Jim Russell will speak about the water quality benefits of fencing area cattle to keep them out of local streams. Dave Nelson, an Iowa Learning Farms farmer partner and owner of Brokaw Supply in Fort Dodge, will discuss strip-tillage and its benefits in reducing soil erosion.
Strip-tillage marries the best aspects of conventional tillage with the benefits of no-till. Before planting (fall post-harvest, or spring pre-plant) a strip-tillage implement creates strips of tilled soil. Surface residue is left undisturbed between the tilled strips. Corn or soybeans are planted into the tilled soil strips, which warm and dry faster than the rest of the field. This practice offers better water infiltration, improved soil structure and potential for reduced fuel, machinery and other crop input costs.
Families are encouraged to come to the field day to see the Conservation Station. The Conservation Station’s rainfall simulator shows the effects of rain on several different surface scenarios and subsurface drainage including highly disturbed land, no-till and residue-covered surfaces, buffers and permeable pavement. The learning lab portion of the Conservation Station includes displays and activities highlighting why soil and water quality are important to us all. Kids can become members of the “conservation pack” by participating in the Conservation Station activities.
The field day will be held at the Oriole Ridge Lodge in Hickory Grove Park on the north side of the lake. The park is approximately three miles southwest of Colo, Iowa. From Highway 30, approximately 2.5 miles west of Colo, turn south onto 680th Avenue and travel one mile. Turn right onto 250th Street and head west one mile; the park entrance will be on the left. Travel on the park road past the campground, beach and Bobwhite Shelter; follow the Y in road to the right. Oriole Ridge Lodge will be on the right.