By Bill Northey
As spring enters full swing, farmers and gardeners alike are excited to kick-off the growing season and plant what will hopefully be a bountiful crop. Spring also presents an opportunity to review the conservation needs on your land, whether it is a farm, acreage or an urban lot in a city or small town.
Iowa gets an average of around 35 inches of rain each year, a little less in the northwest and more in the southeast parts of Iowa, and that means each of us will receive about three feet of water on our property over the course of the year. Our Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship is available to help landowners of all size manage that water to better protect the precious natural resources in our state.
The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship's Division of Soil Conservation, partnering with local Soil and Water Conservation Districts in the state and USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service, has been working with farmers and landowners for 70 years to help them design and install conservation practices that help prevent erosion and protect water quality.
Both technical and financial assistance available for Iowans
You can visit your local USDA Service Center to learn more about the assistance, both technical and financial, available through our department's Division of Soil Conservation to support the installation of a wide variety of conservation practices.
These practices, such as terraces, filter strips, grass waterways, buffers, etc., are designed to prevent rainwater from running off and carrying soil and other pollutants into our river, lakes and streams.
In recent years, our department has also created an urban conservation program that takes the lessons we have learned from that 70 years of working with farmers and landowners and applies them to our urban areas.
Urban conservation program uses lessons farmers have learned
Our towns and cities also get rain and we have found that parking lots, streets and yards can also generate runoff that impacts the water quality in our state and can contribute to flood flows, especially in smaller urban streams with a significant amount of development in their watersheds.
So, we now have 5 urban conservationists that work with homeowners, developers, businesses and community leaders across the state. These conservation specialists help educate them about strategies and practices that can be installed so that rainwater movement is slowed down and allowed to infiltrate into the ground rather than run-off and carry any pollutants with it.
They show how rain gardens, bioretention cells, soil quality restoration, native landscaping, permeable pavement and other practices can be used in new construction or made to work with existing infrastructure.
Get help and more information on various conservation practices
They have also created a "Rainscaping Iowa" campaign. One of the goals of this effort is to train landscaping professionals in designing and installing these urban conservation practices so that homeowners can work with these professionals to install these practices in their community.
For more information on the different types of urban conservation practices or to find a "Rainscaper" near you just visit www.rainscapingiowa.org.
So, whether you are on the farm, living on acreage or in town, I would encourage you to take a look at your property and consider how you will manage the rain that falls on it this year. If we all take steps to take better care of precious resources we can make sure future generations can enjoy them as well.
Editor's Note: Northey, a fourth generation corn and soybean farmer from Spirit Lake, is serving his second term as Iowa Secretary of Agriculture. His priorities as state ag secretary are promoting the use of science and new technologies to better care for our air, soil and water, and reaching out to all Iowans to tell the story of Iowa agriculture. To learn more visit www.IowaAgriculture.gov.