Do Your Fields Need Conservation Repairs?

Farmers should keep an eye out for areas needing additional conservation practices.

As harvest continues, farmers need to keep an eye out for any areas of fields that may have experienced erosion during the heavy rains earlier this year. The heavy rains came at a time when crops had not been planted and much of the ground was bare. As a result initial reports showed that nearly 10% of the state's cropland experienced heavy erosion.

"Farmers understand their productivity comes from the soil and are committed to keeping it on the land. But the heavy rains and flooding we experienced this May and June overwhelmed many conservation practices and showed places where more conservation work or repair to existing conservation practices is needed," says Bill Northey, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture. "As farmers travel the fields to harvest or if they examine their land once the crop is out, they have a great opportunity to note where new practices are needed."

Extensive damage to conservation structures

Following the floods earlier this year, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service sent a survey to the 100 Soil and Water Conservation Districts across the state asking them to estimate the damage to conservation practices throughout the state caused by the heavy rain and flooding.

The survey showed an estimated $40.4 million in damage to conservation practices from record rainfall and flooding; and 2.284 million acres experienced heavy erosion, estimated at losing more than 20 tons of topsoil per acre.

In addition to new practices such as terraces and grassed waterways that are needed, farmers should keep an eye out for existing practices that may need maintenance or repair. The survey conducted earlier this year estimated that more than 12,000 grassed waterways and 8,000 terraces across the state are in need of repair following the flooding.

Take a map with you to the field this fall

Farmers are encouraged to take a map of their farm or fields along in the tractor or combine cab to mark areas where erosion was evident and places where additional grass waterways, terraces or other practices might be beneficial. The map can then be used when working with an engineer to design the needed conservation practices.

"There is no way to be completely prepared for the record rainfall we received this year, but it's important that we keep working to improve our soil conservation practices throughout the state," says Northey. "I encourage farmers to reach out to their local Soil and Water Conservation District and the NRCS office in their county for assistance."

The Division of Soil Conservation at the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship is responsible for state leadership in protection and management of soil, water and mineral resources. The state soil division works with all of Iowa's 99 Soil and Water Conservation Districts, as well as with private landowners across the state, helping them with their environmental protection and agricultural production needs. For information visit

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