Iowa farmers are known for not just growing food, fiber and fuel, but for doing it well. Their fertile soils, combined with varied terrain and a lot of Mother Nature mean farmers face challenges when it comes to keeping nitrates where they belong. The Iowa Water Quality Initiative has been a big part of helping farm families use innovative, science-proven solutions to prevent nitrates from being washed into the watershed. Now the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF) is showcasing those efforts with a series of fun videos called Conservation Q&A.
“Farmers have a good story to tell, but sometimes showing how it all comes together is best,” says IFBF President, Craig Hill. “To do that, you have to get on the farm, meet the farmer, and see how they’re making progress. The practices in the Nutrient Reduction Strategy are a proven guide, so farmers start there and work with several experts to find practices that work best on their farm; it’s quite varied, depending upon topography, soil and slope. Safeguarding our water, doing more with less; it’s a learning process that never ends.”
“For example, in some areas, cover crops are the best approach to holding nitrogen in place, so many farmers are putting their own dollars to work to put in cover crops; in fact, cover crop plantings are up 4,625% in Iowa in the last seven years,” says Iowa State University (ISU) associate professor of agronomy, Mike Castellano.
Other areas benefit from putting in a wetland, so Iowa farmers have restored vast areas of farmland into wetlands; according to the latest information from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) & Farm Service Agency (FSA), the equivalent wetland acreage of more than 303,000 football fields have been put into place in Iowa in just the last two years. Combined, these conservation practices are bringing measurable progress in many watersheds. A 2014 report from the Iowa Soybean Association On-Farm Network Conference shows over the past 15 years, nitrate levels have trended lower in the Raccoon River by nearly 25%, despite having more acres of corn being grown in the Raccoon watershed.
“Farmers have been implementing conservation practices on their farms for decades, investing as much as $2.2 billion in conservation improvements over the past decade (http://tinyurl.com/j4koscz), and the Nutrient Reduction Strategy has accelerated their efforts,” says Hill. “Conservation is important to farmers. It’s important to get the facts, and there’s none better than a farmer to ask, when it comes to seeing how these practices are working in Iowa today. We’re proud to show them all, on www.ConservationCountsIowa.com.”
So far the project has produced seven videos, but new ideas are being planned to help tell the conservation story.