Organic Water Quality Field Day Is June 18

Learn about tech-filled sumps, which monitor nitrogen loading from conventional and organic fields

June 10, 2024, 9:47 am | Kathleen Delate

AMES, Iowa – Organic growers and those with an in interest in transitioning to organic production can learn more about the latest research on water quality comparisons with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service and Iowa State University’s Organic Ag Program during a field day June 18 near Boone.

Participants will be able to peer into tech-filled sumps, which monitor nitrogen loading from conventional and organic fields at the Organic Water Quality research site. Iowa State’s Agronomy Farm is located at 1308 U Ave., Boone. Participants should meet at the main building where Iowa State vans will provide transportation to the nearby experimental site.

umps at the Organic Water Quality experimental site near Boone, Iowa.The Organic Water Quality site is a unique experiment, which was started by the late Cynthia Cambardella, soil scientist, USDA-ARS, and Kathleen Delate, professor and organic specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, in 2012, and is the longest-running comparison of water quality in organic systems in the country.

Sabrina Ruis, soil scientist, USDA-ARS, Ames, will discuss organic water quality research results, which demonstrate less nitrate loading in the organic system, and greater soil quality.

Delate will discuss the yield comparisons between conventional and organic systems, and the economics of organic rotations.

“We have had a very challenging season so far, with excessive rains delaying planting and weed management,” said Delate. “The OWQ site was just planted on May 30. Organic prices are still holding strong, at $8 per bushel for organic corn and $21 per bushel for organic soybeans, which will be a buffer against any down-pressure in yields.”

There will also be an opportunity to learn hands-on techniques for rapid testing for soil quality and nitrates in tile water. The field day will run from 3-5 p.m. and includes light refreshments.

Participants will also learn about the new USDA National Organic Program’s Transitioning to Organic Partnership Program, which will support technical assistance to help producers overcome technical, cultural and financial shifts during and after organic certification. Anyone interested in transitioning to organic production can receive free mentorship through this program.

The event is supported through a grant from the Organic Center/FFAR and the USDA National Organic Program Transitioning to Organic Partnership Program. Details on these projects can be found on the Organic Ag Program website.

For more information, Delate can be reached at or 515-294-7069.

Photo Credit: Sumps at the Organic Water Quality experimental site near Boone, Iowa. These are used for comparing water quality in organic and conventional systems.

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