What more can you do to help protect Iowa’s precious soil and water resources? That’s food for thought during the annual Soil and Water Conservation Week, which runs from April 24 to May 1. Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey is encouraging all Iowans to consider what they can do to better protect soil and improve water quality. This week is an opportunity to recognize the important conservation practices placed on Iowa’s landscape and bring attention to the ongoing work by farmers, landowners and urban residents to protect the state’s soil and water resources.
“Iowans in our towns and on our farms continue to engage in water quality and soil conservation efforts. This week is an opportunity to celebrate all the work that has been done and to highlight the efforts currently underway to prevent erosion and improve water quality,” he says. “It is vital that we preserve the soil and water that help make Iowa agriculture so productive and such a key driver of our state’s economy.”
Special events highlight innovative conservation practices
On Monday, April 25 Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds will visit Iowa State University to receive updates on the work being done by the Nutrient Research Center at the University. Branstad will also sign a proclamation recognizing April 24 to May 1 as Iowa Soil and Water Conservation Week during the event, which will be held at ISU’s cover crop research site at southwest corner Highway 30 and V Ave near Ames.
On Wednesday, April 27 Branstad will receive an update on the Benton/Tama and Miller Creek Iowa Water Quality Initiative Demonstration Projects and tour water quality practices installed as part of the projects. The event will be held at the John Weber farm, 3213 Hwy. 8, near Dysart. Branstad will then visit a site of a tree planting on the Jim and Jody Kerns farm just south of Edgewood, in Delaware County. Kerns is the Tree Farming and Forestry representative on the State Soil Conservation Committee. The farm is located on County Road C7X approximately ½ mile east of Hwy. 3.
More information about additional activities is available online
On Thursday, April 28 Northey will visit Storm Lake to get an update on water quality activities underway in the community. He will participate in a groundbreaking at a new Water Quality Initiative Urban project the city is undertaking to convert old lime lagoons into stormwater treatment wetlands. Northey will also attend a tree planting by Storm Lake High School students at a recently completed stormwater wetland.
Iowa Soil and Water Conservation Week is in coordination with the National Stewardship Week, sponsored by the National Association of Conservation Districts. This year’s Stewardship Week theme is “We all need Trees.” More information about the activities that will be held during Soil and Water Conservation Week in Iowa can be found at iowaagriculture.gov/conservationweek.asp.
Iowa conservation partners working together to save soil
During the “Dust Bowl” years of the 1930s, the first efforts to prevent soil erosion were developed. In 1939, Iowa passed a law establishing a state agency and the means for soil and water conservation districts to organize. Over 70 years later, the 100 Soil and Water Conservation Districts across the state are hosting a variety of events to highlight the conservation work being done across the state.
The Iowa Department of Agriculture’s Division of Soil Conservation & Water Quality provides leadership in the protection and management of soil, water and mineral resources. The division also works with Soil and Water Conservation Districts and private farmers and landowners to meet their ag and environmental protection needs, in both rural and urban landscapes. The Iowa Ag Department’s conservation partners include USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Iowa State University, Conservation Districts of Iowa (CDI) and many others.
Focus is now on implementing Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy
The Iowa Water Quality Initiative was established in 2013 to help implement the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy, which is a science and technology based approach to achieving a 45% reduction in nitrogen and phosphorus losses to our waters.
As part of the initiative, last fall 1,800 farmers committed $3.5 million in cost share funds to install nutrient reduction practices in each of Iowa’s 99 counties. The practices that were eligible for this funding are cover crops, no-till or strip till, or using a nitrification inhibitor when applying fall fertilizer. Farmers using cost share funding contribute 50% or more to the total cost of the practice.
There are also currently 45 existing demonstration projects located across the state to help implement and demonstrate water quality practices through the initiative. This includes 16 targeted watershed projects, seven projects focused on expanding the use and innovative delivery of water quality practices and 22 urban water quality demonstration projects. More than 100 organizations are participating in these projects. These partners will provide $19.31 million dollars to go with over $12 million in state funding going to these projects.