Story submitted by Bruce Voigts, Project Coordinator for the Boone River Watershed Water Quality Initiative Project, Clarion, Iowa.
Eagle Grove, IA – On September 20th, the Earth Science class from the Eagle Grove High School took a field trip to a farm operated by Tim Smith. Smith, a White House Champion of Change for Sustainable and Climate-Smart Agriculture, showed how he incorporates cover crops, strip tillage, and a bioreactor into his farm operation. Students also traveled 12 miles north of his farm to tour a wetland CREP site. Tim, along with Bruce Voigts and Tas Stephen from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in the Clarion USDA office, discussed the benefits these practices add to soil health and water quality.
The wetland tour showed a wetland site that was under construction. Research has demonstrated that strategically sited and designed CREP wetlands, like the one they toured, can remove an average of about 40% of nitrates from cropland drainage waters, according to the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy. The CREP wetland has a total of 1,025 acres that flow into it. Wetlands not only address water quality impacts from nitrogen and phosphorus, but can also promote wildlife and habitat diversity in Iowa. Even though the wetland is under construction, there were numerous water birds out on the water with countless tracks in the mud of previous “visitors” to the pool that is starting to fill with water. Ducks and wading birds were plentiful.
Overall, students noted that the field trip was very informative and would assist in writing a report on conservation for their Earth Science class. By gaining firsthand experience on the farm, they were able to see and learn how farmers across Iowa can help reduce nitrogen and phosphorus loss from their farm fields.
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