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Can You Use Saturated Buffers For Nitrate Removal?

Can You Use Saturated Buffers For Nitrate Removal?

This month's ILF Webinar June 18 will help you learn more about this proven practice for reducing runoff from farm fields.

Buffer strips in fields next to creeks and waterways can work well for nitrate removal and keep it out of the streams and rivers. This month's Iowa Learning Farms webinar will explore the use of this water quality improvement practice. The webinar will be on Wednesday, June 18 at 11:30 a.m. It is part of a free series hosted by ILF through Adobe Connect. The webinars are held the third Wednesday of each month. They are free and all that is needed to participate is a computer with Internet access.

TUNE-IN, LEARN MORE: This month's ILF webinar on June 18 will cover the use of saturated buffer strips for removing nitrate from water leaving farm fields. The free webinar is Wednesday, June 18 at 11:30 a.m.

This month's presenter is Dan Jaynes, a research soil scientist at the USDA-Agricultural Research Service's National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment, located on the ISU campus in Ames. He is a collaborating professor in agronomy at Iowa State University. He will be discussing his work with saturated buffers for nitrate removal.

Buffers are a proven way to reduce surface water contamination
Riparian buffers are areas of natural plants and trees located between waterways and farmland. They are a proven technology for reducing sediment, phosphorus, and nitrate contamination of surface waters, and help to reduce nitrate from shallow groundwater that flows through the buffer. 

Unfortunately, in tile-drained areas of the Midwest, buffers are not particularly effective in removing nitrate from the groundwater because the tile lines discharge directly into surface waters, bypassing the buffers. Saturated buffers are an attempt to "re-plumb" the riparian buffer, redirecting some of the field tile drainage into the buffer as shallow groundwater flow. As the water flows through the buffer, both denitrification and uptake by the perennial plants in the buffer remove nitrate and keep it out of the adjacent stream.

Dan Jaynes has studied the fate and transport of agrichemicals in the landscape for the past 30 years and authored 110 peer-reviewed scientific publications. Current areas of research include characterizing the impact of farming practices on nitrate losses to surface waters, investigating the spatial and temporal patterns of yield variations in corn and soybean fields, and developing new designs and management practices for tile drainage to reduce nitrate losses to surface waters.


To connect to the webinar, go to at 11:30 a.m. on the morning of the webinar and log on using the "guest" option.

 ILF has hosted a monthly webinar since January 2011. ILF site has links for archived webinars from all previous sessions.  There are 40 webinars available to view on a variety of topics including soil erosion, cover crops and farmer perspectives. These can be viewed at any time. The webinar archives are also available in podcast through iTunes.

Established in 2004, Iowa Learning Farms is building a Culture of Conservation, encouraging adoption of conservation practices. Farmers, researchers and ILF team members are working together to identify and implement the best management practices that improve water quality and soil health while remaining profitable. Partners of Iowa Learning Farms are the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Iowa Natural Resources Conservation Service and Iowa Department of Natural Resources (USEPA section 319), Conserva­tion Districts of Iowa, Iowa Farm Bureau, Iowa Water Center and Practical Farmers of Iowa. For more information about Iowa Learning Farms, visit the website.

Here are some upcoming field days this week in Iowa
Strip till and cover crops field day in Webster County. Iowa Learning Farms will host a "Strip till and Cover Crops for Nutrient Management" field day on Tuesday, June 17 at the farm of Mark Thompson near Badger, Iowa from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Topics discussed include the use of strip tillage and cover crops as conservation farming techniques, and how these methods reduce water impairment and pollution. The event is free-of-charge and open to the public, and dinner will be provided.

Attendees will hear from host farmer Mark Thompson, who is currently using strip tillage and cover crops. Thompson will share his experiences with these methods and offer advice on how to effectively strip till and manage cover crops. Natural Resources Conservation Service state agronomist Barb Stewart will provide information about how strip tillage can be an effective tool for residue management and in reducing the amount of nutrients and sediment entering waterways. The Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy urges farmers to adopt practices that lessen the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus going into Iowa's rivers and streams.


The Conservation Station will also be on display. The Conservation Station features a rainfall simulator that shows the effects that different surfaces from agricultural and urban environments have on the displacement of rain water. The event site is located at 2585 120th St., near Badger. Go one-third of a mile east from Badger on County Road C56.

Winter cereal rye, cover crops and prairie strips at Rowley. ILF, Practical Farmers of Iowa and the Cedar River Watershed Coalition will host a field day at the farm of Dick and Diana Sloan in Rowley on Thursday, June 19, from 12:30-3:00 p.m. Topics covered will include winter cereal rye for grain production; cover crops with and after rye; multi-species cover crops; growing corn after rye and a legume cover crop; and prairie strips.

The event: "Three-Crop Rotations, Cover Crops and Prairie for Conservation" is free and open to the public. The program will start at the Sloans' home farm, where they have established strips of prairie species among their cash grain crop fields. It will then move to one of their rye fields a few miles away. The field day is sponsored by Buchanan County Soil and Water Conservation District.

 "Cereal rye is not only our most reliable cover crop protecting water quality and soil health," Dick says, "but it is also a good choice for extending rotations beyond corn and soybeans." Dick and Diana Sloan sustain 720 acres of family-owned cropland in the Cedar River watershed in northeastern Iowa. They currently farm using many conservation practices, including no-till farming, tile drainage, grassed waterway buffers, crop terraces, prairie strips and cover crops. They will share their experience in growing winter cereal rye for grain production and using it as a cover crop.

Additional presenters include ISU Extension nutrient specialist Chad Engels, Cedar River Coalition watershed coordinator Mary Beth Stevenson and Natural Resources Conservation Service State Soil Scientist Rick Bednarek. In addition to the speakers, the Conservation Station will be on display. The Conservation Station features a rainfall simulator that shows the effects that different surfaces from agricultural and urban environments have on the displacement of rainwater.


Directions: Take I-380 to Exit 49 toward Brandon/Buchanan County (exit onto County Road D48 / 330th Street). Note that the farm location for the second half is on the northeast corner of the interchange. Look for the blue Harvestore silo.

Livestock feather and hoof care June 19 near Ankeny.  Whether you're raising livestock for farm income or for show, knowing how to properly care for hooves, hair and feathers is an important aspect of animal husbandry. Come learn the correct ways to groom a range of livestock during a Practical Farmers of Iowa field day at Griffieon Family Farm on Thursday, June 19, from 5-7 p.m., near Ankeny. LaVon and Craig Griffieon and family run a diversified operation that includes beef, chickens, turkeys, pigs, sheep and horses, as well as corn, soybeans, oats, alfalfa and sweet corn. They invite livestock owners of all types to join them for an evening of fitting, trimming and clipping. The farm is located at 11655 NE 6th St., north of Ankeny.

Participants will learn how to trim hooves and feathers for animal health and safety, as well as some of the ways to tell when an animal needs attention. Hoof care of cattle, sheep and horses will be demonstrated, along with how to trim flight feathers in chickens, and blocking and trimming of calves and hair sheep.

"For most chickens, you trim their flight feathers to keep them from jumping the fence," LaVon says. "If they fly out some predator will get them because they can't get back in. They can also get in your garden and dig your plants and mulch out. Chickens are better in the pen. If you have a problem with your chickens not staying put, trimming their wings is a good way to keep them where they're supposed to stay."

For hoofed animals, both working livestock and those raised for show, LaVon says a major reason for staying on top of hoof care is to avoid lameness. "They can get inflammation between their toes. Sometimes there might be a tack or nail that's stuck. Dairy cattle, especially, can get worn parts on their hooves and their feet get tender and soft. For show animals, it's like wearing your high heels when you're in a beauty contest – it makes the animals stand up and strut better."


While Iowans generally don't have to worry about hoof problems caused by dry climates, she says horses can still be prone to some of those issues, such as cracking. "We don't have that problem with cattle here, but we do see horizontal and vertical cracks in horses. If it cracks, like your fingernail, they're going to be lame."

Griffieon Family Farm is a Century Farm that has been worked since 1868. The family focuses on humane management of livestock and healthy food, as well as sharing the rural lifestyle with their urban neighbors.

Directions from Des Moines: Take I-35 north to Exit 94 (36th Street). Turn left off the exit and go 1.2 miles to U.S. 69. Proceed west across U.S. 69, go one-half mile to NW Ash Drive and turn right (north); the road will turn to gravel (NE 6th Street). Go past two cement silos. The house will be the first on the right (east) side of the gravel road (the mailbox has the Griffieons' name on it).

Directions from Ames: Take I-35 south to Exit 96 for Elkhart / Polk City. Turn right and go 1.5 miles to U.S. 69. Turn left and go 1 mile until you reach the Polk City blacktop (NE 118th Avenue). You will see a green highway sign that says "Polk City, Saylorville Lake." Turn right and go one-half mile to the first gravel road, then turn left. The house will be the first on the left side of the road.

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