Iowa State University ecologist Lisa Schulte Moore and the Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge have collaborated on ground breaking research related to Prairie ecosystems and farming. The research ha planted strips of Native Prairie within fields of common commodity crops like corn and soybeans. These strips of Native Prairie are 10% of the total acreage of each trial plot. The researchers then tested the amount of nitrogen runoff, phosphorus runoff and sediment loss. The results were amazing with the plots contain the 10% Native Prairie the nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment loss was reduced by 90%. These three issues are some of the biggest problems for farmers and this research shows that by planting small strips of Native Prairie within the farm landscape farmers can not only conserve soil, save money in application of chemicals, and provide important wildlife habitat. This research has the potential to change the farm landscape from one that plows fence-line to fence-line to one that promotes conservation as an economically viable option!
Please read more about the project and the research by clicking the links below...
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency recently published a study on nitrogen in surface waters. The study was a collaborative effort led by Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, with assistance from the University of Minnesota and the U.S. Geological Survey. The report team used more than 50,000 water samples collected at 700 stream sites and used 35 years of monitoring data and findings from 300 published studies.
The most disturbing finding from this study is that 70% of nitrogen in Minnesota waterways is from cropland. Why is this important? Nitrogen in the Mississippi is creating a giant dead zone at the confluence of the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico. Nitrogen can also contaminate drinking water and damage human health. Finally high loads of nitrogen are toxic to fish and other aquatic life in our lakes and rivers.
What does the MPCA suggest to mitigate these risks? They suggest restoring wetlands, diversification of plant species and planting perennial's (i.e. Native Grasses) on marginal lands. Sounds eerily similar to the platform and mission of Pheasants Forever. These strong mitigation's all originate with strong, broad farm conservation programs. At a time when levels of pollutants are so high why are we calling for extensions of crop insurance and subsidies to farmers? What we need are stronger conservation measures to insure clean water for human health and all aquatic species.