Row Crops Integrated with Prairie for Water, Soil Improvement Field Day

PRAIRIE CITY, IOWA— Small prairie strips growing at key points in corn and soybean fields at the Neal  Smith National Wildlife Refuge are yielding more than good crops; they’re improving soil and water quality as well as creating beneficial habitat for insects and birds. Research exploring this unique system that incorporates native prairie into working landscapes will be highlighted at a field day on Tuesday, Sept. 6, hosted by Iowa Learning Farms.

The prairie strips, established in 2008, have reduced sediment being lost from the row crop fields by about 90 percent. From the data collected, findings show reductions in peak runoff from those sites where prairie strips are included; nitrate and phosphorus movement have decreased as well. Also being monitored are quality and depth of groundwater, and changes in bird and insect populations, plant species and composition in the reconstructed prairie. Attendees can visit areas and discuss topics of their choosing at the field day, which includes one of the sites containing the prairie strips, and information about plant, bird and insect population diversity.

Field day activities will begin at 4:30 p.m. on the research site for one of the 14 watersheds involved in the project. Following the field tours, a complimentary evening meal will be served at the Prairie Learning Center. The event is free and the public is invited to attend.

The research site, also called the Interim site, is located approximately two miles south of Highway 163 on West 109th Street, between 96th and 104th Ave. From Jasper County road S6G turn west (left) onto 98th Avenue, travel one mile west and turn south (left) onto West 109th Street.

The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture’s Ecology Initiative, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship–Division of Soil Conservation, and the ISU College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, are all supporting the Neal Smith project, which is guided by a Stakeholder Advisory Committee comprised of representatives from 15 organizations. Baseline measures were taken in 2006 and the prairie plantings were done in 2007. For more information about the project, visit the “Science-based Trials of Rowcrops Integrated with Prairies,” or STRIPs, website at