New research supported by the Iowa Nutrient Research Center suggests that water quality challenges would be even greater if it weren’t for a little appreciated feature of the landscape: road ditches.
Research underway by the Iowa Nutrient Research Center (INRC) and the Iowa Soybean Association is analyzing drainage water recycling’s costs and benefits, with funding from the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, the INRC and the USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture.
On a cold day last fall, Iowa State University scientist Michelle Soupir and her team of graduate students shoveled out the woodchip-and-mud entrails of nine concrete-lined water-quality cells at the Agricultural Engineering and Agronomy Research Farm near Ames. They packed samples from the cells — mini-bioreactors — into plastic bags and labeled them to take back to the lab, where they would measure bacterial activity and the rate of woodchip decomposition.
New research shows that “multi-purpose oxbows” can effectively reduce nitrate-nitrogen, earning them a spot in the Iowa Nutrient Research Strategy’s menu of conservation options. Keith Schilling, State Geologist and Director of the Iowa Geological Survey, is lead investigator for Iowa Nutrient Research Center- sponsored research to better understand the benefits of oxbow restoration for water quality. Partners in the research include the Iowa Soybean Association, The Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Geological Survey's Iowa Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at Iowa State.
A new technology for cleansing nutrients from water leaving Iowa’s tile-drained fields began with two Iowa State University researchers brainstorming after a professional meeting. Their “back of the napkin” discussion in 2010 led to development of saturated riparian buffers, a new conservation practice that is rapidly gaining interest in Iowa and far beyond.