Agroecology that Harnesses the Power of Prairie to Achieve Landscape Conservation Goals.

Friday, October 24, 2014: 1:25 PM
Oceanic A (Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center)
Lisa Schulte Moore , Iowa State University
Matt Helmers , Iowa State University
J. Arbuckle , Iowa State University
Pauline Drobney , U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Mary Harris , Iowa State University
Matt Liebman , Iowa State University
Randall Kolka , U.S. Forest Service
Jeri Neal , Iowa State University
Matt O'Neal , Iowa State University
John Tyndall , Iowa State University
With much of the global land base in agriculture and under private ownership, any viable landscape conservation practice must fit within the context of crop production systems.  We study the ability of strategically integrated contour buffer and filter strips composed of diverse, native plants to meet both production and conservation goals. Specifically, through the Strategic Trials of Row crops Integrated with Prairie Strips (STRIPS) project, we are converting small amounts of row-cropped agricultural fields to native prairie and studying the environmental and socioeconomic impacts. We have found that prairie strips comprising 10% of no-till corn-bean agricultural catchments reduce sediment transport by 95%, total phosphorus transport by 90%, total nitrogen transport by 84%, and surface water flow by 60% compared to catchments entirely in no-till corn-bean agriculture. These results are consistent across a range of weather conditions, including high-rainfall and drought years. Prairie strips also provide habitat for native plants, insect pollinators and natural enemies, and birds, including some species of greatest conservation need. Financial analysis indicates the annualized present value costs of prairie strips to range from $590 to $865/ha/yr. If prairie strips were under a 15‐year Conservation Reserve Program contract, total per area cost to farmers would be reduced by over 85%, and affordable compared to other common conservation practices, such as terraces and wetlands. In sum, prairie strips offer a way to efficiently meet multiple conservation goals through easy and flexible incorporation into existing farming systems. We are now working to implement prairie strips on private lands across the Midwestern US.