Iowa Learning Farms Virtual Field Days to Focus on Improving Water Quality

Virtual field days will include discussions on drainage water recycling and riparian saturated buffers

November 21, 2022, 10:07 am | Elizabeth Ripley

AMES, Iowa – Iowa Learning Farms, in partnership with the Iowa Nutrient Research Center and Conservation Learning Group, will hold two upcoming virtual field days focusing on improving water quality.

The Dec. 8 virtual field day will focus on drainage water recycling, followed by a Dec. 15 virtual field day focused on riparian saturated buffers.

Both events begin at 1 p.m. CDT. The Dec. 8 event will feature Matt Helmers, Iowa Nutrient Research Center director and agricultural engineering specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach; Chris Hay, Iowa Soybean Association senior research scientist; Shane Wulf, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship senior environmental specialist; and Mark Schleisman, Calhoun County farmer and landowner.

Chris Hay and Matt Helmers.Drainage water recycling is a drainage management system designed to capture water during wet periods so it can be used later when growing crops are thirsty. Versions have been around for years, but adoption has remained limited. Now interest is growing as the practice is recognized for its potential to improve water quality and help farmers reduce risks from weather volatility. 

During both virtual field days, attendees will have the chance to get a closer look at new installations being used to collect in-field data on the performance of these systems. These sites are being studied as part of a research project led by the Iowa Nutrient Research Center and the Iowa Soybean Association analyzing drainage water recycling’s costs and benefits, with funding from the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, the Iowa Nutrient Research Center and the EPA’s Gulf of Mexico Division. 

“Too much rain or not enough rain are two of the biggest problems for Iowa crops most years,” said Chris Hay. “Drainage water recycling can help farmers address these challenges. Research -- mostly done in other states -- shows it can boost yields by up to 50% for corn and 30% for soybeans. Our early work modeling it here in Iowa also shows potential for significant yield gains, especially in dry years, and the system can also benefit water quality and wildlife. But there’s still a lot of work to be done to predict what farmers can expect in terms of return on investment.”

Virtual field day access instructions

Dec. 8 virtual field day. Shortly before 1 p.m. on the day of the event, click this URL,, or visit  and click “Join Live Virtual Field Day”.

 Or, join from a dial-in phone line by dialing +1 646 876 9923 or +1 301 715 8592, meeting ID 945 3331 7620.

Dec. 15 virtual field day. Shortly before 1 p.m. on the day of the event, click this URL:

Or, join from a dial-in phone line by dialing 1-312-626-6799. Meeting ID: 914 1198 4892.

Both field days will be recorded and archived on the ILF website so that they can be watched at any time. Participants may be eligible for a Certified Crop Adviser board-approved continuing education unit. Information about how to apply to receive the CEU (if approved) will be provided at the end of the live field day.

Shareable photo: Chris Hay, left, and Matt Helmers visit the drainage water recycling site at Mark Schleisman’s farm near Lake City, Iowa.

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