Issue: Cover crops have significant potential to improve water quality by limiting erosion when row crops are not growing, and by limiting the loss of nitrogen by leaching. Yet widespread adoption has been limited, as the yield of subsequent-year corn crops may be negatively affected by cover crops. One reason for this is the potential for immobilization of nitrogen from soil organic matter as cover crop residues decompose.
Issue: The STRIPS project (Science-based Trials of Rowcrops Integrated with Prairie Strips) conducted at Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge near Prairie City showed integrating tallgrass prairie vegetation into row-cropped watersheds can provide water quality benefits and increase biodiversity across several taxa. Because these studies were conducted on small watersheds at one location, there is a need to evaluate the water quality benefits of prairie strips when implemented on a full-farm scale across various locations in Iowa.