Iowa Nutrient Research Center Funds New Set of Diverse Water Quality Studies

September 16, 2019

The Iowa Nutrient Research Center at Iowa State University has funded 16 new water quality and nutrient management projects for 2019-2020.

“I am pleased to announce the latest round of projects represent more than $2.03 million in funding for water quality research,” said Matt Helmers, Iowa Nutrient Research Center director and professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering at Iowa State. “The new grants bring the total number of projects funded fully or partially by the center to 92, a total of more than $10.7 million invested in nutrient-related water quality research since 2013.”

This is the Iowa Nutrient Research Center’s seventh year to fund water quality research since it was created by the Iowa Legislature. The new projects will be led by researchers from Iowa State, University of Iowa and University of Northern Iowa. They will also include private landowners and collaborators from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service, the Iowa Geological Survey, Iowa Beef Center, Iowa Learning Farms, Iowa Nutrient Research and Education Council, Iowa Soybean Association, Kirkwood Community College, The Nature Conservancy, the USDA Natural Resources and Conservation Service and several Iowa municipalities and watershed groups. Projects can extend for one to two years.

The new projects, listed below, fall into the following INRC categories: Edge-of-Field, Land Management, Multi-Objective and Nutrient Management. Agronomy faculty were awarded five of the 16 new projects.

Land Management

  • Impacts of Cover Crops on Phosphorus and Nitrogen Loss with Surface Runoff. Led by Antonio P. Mallarino, Iowa State professor of agronomy, the project extends previous INRC research assessing the impacts of a winter cereal rye cover crop and two tillage systems on surface runoff of nutrients in a field testing high in phosphorus.
  • Interseeding Grass and Legume Cover Crops into Early Vegetative Stage Corn. Led by Mark Licht, Iowa State assistant professor of agronomy, the project will develop best management practices for interseeding cover crops into a corn cash crop, focusing on cover crop species, establishment timing and seeding method.

Nutrient Management

  • Assessing the Effectiveness of Individual Versus Multiple Nutrient Reduction Practices on Water Quality and Economic Viability. The project, led by Sotirios Archontoulis, Iowa State associate professor of agronomy, will quantify the effectiveness of individual versus multiple/stacked nutrient loss reduction practices to identify suites of management practices that can improve water quality while maintaining or improving profitability. 
  • Investigating the Double-impact of Soil Health Promoting Practices on Water Quality. Led by Marshall McDaniel, ISU assistant professor of agronomy, this project aims to refine prediction of the economically optimum nitrogen rate, or EONR, using a new “combination” soil health test that uses CO2 Burst plus additional soil measurements at three research sites. Researchers also plan to develop a new economic tool that can reflect the double-impact of soil health on water quality and farm profits. 
  • The Root of the Matter: Are Changes in Corn Root Morphology Responsible for Improved Yield and Higher Nitrogen Use Efficiency in Diversified Cropping Systems? Led by Matt Liebman, professor of agronomy at Iowa State, this project will investigate the potential of deeply rooted legume forage crops and small grains to simultaneously increase corn yield and nitrogen-use efficiency. Findings will be used to inform a widely used crop growth model, the Agricultural Production Systems sIMulator (APSIM).


Find more detail about these and past projects at

The Iowa Nutrient Research Center pursues science-based approaches to evaluating the performance of current and emerging nutrient management practices, providing recommendations on implementing the practices and developing new practices.