A state environmental group has teamed up with the Iowa Farm Bureau to continue a program that encourages landowners to plant buffer strips of plants along waterways to prevent soil runoff. Roger Hunt of Trees Forever says the new five-year initiative extends a program that started in 1997. He says they focused on individual projects in the first five years, and this time want to focus more on a cumulative effect for watershed areas. Hunt says they want to make the buffer strips a longterm project for landowners.He says the government U-S-D-A program has been the primary motivation for landowners to sign up for buffer strips. He says the strips have a five to 10 year lifespan and they want that to increase. Hunt says they want to educate landowners in making the buffer strips do more than just prevent water pollution. He says they want to develop the buffer strips into places where landowners can grow alternative crops that bring in money, and give them another reason to establish buffers. Hunt says there are several types of woody plants that can be grown as cash crops in the buffer strips. He says there are several varieties of dogwoods that can be grown and sold to be used in floral arrangements. He says trees can be grown for lumber as a long term crop investment. And he says there are some trees that will yield a crop in a shorter time, such as chestnuts. He says there are even some walnut varieties that now produce good yields in five to seven years, as opposed to the 15 years it takes for some trees to bear. Hunt says the landowner has to look at their individual situation to determine the types of things they might grow on buffer strips. Hunt says another goal in the next five years is to get kids involved in the program. He says they think it is critical to get young people involved in caring for their environment. The Iowa Farm Bureau is kicking in 250-thousand dollars for the two-million dollar project. Two companies, FS/GROWMARK and Syngenta are also helping support the program along with federal dollars. The program is already getting way in watersheds in Polk and Clarke County. For more information on the program, you can call 800-369-1269, or surf to:www.treesforever.org.
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