Nutrient Reducing Prairie Strips

Prairie strip
Land Management

Title:  Improving outcome predictability, multifunctionality and cost-effectiveness in nutrient reducing prairie strips

Location:  University of Northern Iowa, Tallgrass Prairie Center

Time Period:  2019-2021

Research Team:  Tallgrass Prairie Center, Justin Meissen, and Laura Jackson

Project Description:  The contour prairie strip is a promising conservation tool in our efforts to reduce nutrient loss from agricultural fields. In contrast to many other nutrient reduction practices, prairie strips can also enhance other ecosystem services, including soil quality restoration, wildlife habitat, and resilience to flooding. To optimize the value of prairie strips for nutrient reduction, we need a better understanding of how to: 1) improve the chances of successful implementation of prairie strip vegetation 2) maximize the ability of strips to provide multiple ecological benefits at once, and 3) improve cost-effectiveness of the practice. The project objective is to improve the implementation, multifunctionality, and cost-effectiveness of prairie contour strips for nutrient reduction. A previous field experiment established by the Tallgrass Prairie Center showed how contour prairie strips with strategically designed seed mixes and establishment management addresses multiple conservation challenges in a cost-effective manner. Our new project will build on these findings with the pursuit of three lines of new research. First, we will validate the conclusions of our previous field experiment- that diverse, moderately priced, grass and wildflower balanced seed mixes provide high levels of ecological function in a cost effective way- at a different location to strengthen the scientific basis for making practice recommendations. We also plan to evaluate how planting time (dormant season vs. growing season) affects stand establishment, cost-effectiveness, and functionality in prairie strips. Lastly, we will refine the seed mix strategy that balances seeding rates of grasses and wildflowers by investigating optimal ways that grasses and grass-like plants can be used in a seed mix designed for prairie strips to ensure multiple ecological benefits.  Results from this project will support science-based recommendations to farmers and other land managers that will improve their chances of success when implementing prairie strips.


Funders:  Iowa Nutrient Research Center, Farm Service Agency

Disclaimer:  This is an active research site, please contact the research team prior to planning any site visits.