You are here: NRS HomePartnerships / Water Quality in Agricultural Landscapes

Partnerships

Water Quality in Agricultural Landscapes

[photo:] Prairie strips embedded in an agricultural watershed increase nutrient and sediment retention, reduce runoff, and increase biodiversity.  Photo Credit: Iowa State University.  Photograph shows prairie strips embedded in a row crop field. Traditional agricultural practices have led to a number of environmental problems including increased erosion, high nutrient losses, loss of diversity, and degraded surface and groundwater resources. Ongoing studies in Iowa by Northern Research Station scientists incorporate prairie strips in agricultural watersheds, resulting in both better environmental health and enhanced socioeconomic vitality.

Project partnerships are:

  • filling information gaps regarding the type, quantity, and spatial arrangements of perennials recommended for optimal landscape designs.
  • assessing the benefits and costs associated with integrating perennial vegetation into annual rowcrops.
  • assessing how biodiversity responds to strips of prairie vegetation positioned within corn and soybean agroecosystems.

Scope

The Forest Service has partnered with many organizations to make the Environmental Health and Community Vitality in Agricultural Landscapes project a success.

Acres of Forest Affected
408 million acres of cropland
in the United States
Established           
2004
Staff                                    
1 scientist
Partners                       
6
Annual Budget (approximate)
$1 million

 

Results

To date, the Environmental Health and Community Vitality in Agricultural Landscapes partnership is:

  • changing the traditional approach to agriculture that has led to severe non-point source pollution from nutrients and sediment.
  • developing decision support tools that can help evaluate tradeoffs.
  • developing practical tools for growers and agency personnel describing the potential benefits of perennials in agricultural landscapes and techniques that achieve those benefits.
  • incorporating research results into field days and training for Iowa and Minnesota farmers.

Impacts

The Northern Research Station and its partners are helping Midwestern farming communities understand how to transform strategic portions of the agricultural landscape into perennial plant communities, thus enhancing environmental quality and socioeconomic vitality. Research results are being used in training for farmers as well as the state and federal agencies that are helping implement these practices on the landscape.

Lessons Learned

Partnerships that include a wide diversity of disciplines and interests extend the Forest Service’s ability to contribute to the Nation’s environmental health and influence environmental quality in a significant portion of the United States. Research in Iowa is leading to both better environmental health and enhanced socioeconomic vitality.

[photo:] Matt Helmers, Associate Professor, Agricultural & Biosystems Engineering

 

“We are starting to transition from science to practice. We would not be at this point without the support of the Forest Service and other early partners. There has been a financial benefit, and the scientific expertise that Randy Kolka has brought to this has had a big impact on shaping the research.”
--Matt Helmers, Associate Professor, Agricultural & Biosystems Engineering

Partner Organizations

Last Modified: July 8, 2013