Iowa is one of 14 states getting a portion of 15-million dollars in federal money to cut back the flow of farm fertilizers in waterways. Dean Lemke, the chief of the Water Resource Bureau at the Iowa Department of Agriculture, says Iowa’s one-million dollar grant will help develop a new technology. He says they’ll couple nitrate removal wetlands with controlled drainage — which are essentially drainage valves that control the amount of water runoff. He says they hope to install the drainage valves on three pilot plots in Pocahontas and Palo Alto counties. He says they’re kind of gated structures that producers can raise or lower to raise the water table in those fields. Lemke says the raised water table in the early season when rains are more plentiful, holds onto the nitrates that’ve run off . He says if they can minimize the loss the nitrate, it’s then available for the plants roots to get to in the later part of the growing season. Lemke says they hope the new process will dramatically reduce the nitrate runoff in the heavily tiled areas of northwest Iowa.He says research in other states indicated reduction of nitrates from 25 to 45-percent with controlled drainage, and he says they anticipate removing 40 to 90 percent with the new system. He says coupling the two together should give them some significant nitrate reduction. The controlled drainage will raise the water level in the fields, and Lemke says they need to determine how that will the way farmers work the land.He says that’s the challenge they have to work out to determine if these systems will be compatible with the producers tillage and crop systems. He says part of the study is determining that.The Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was in Des Moines Monday to announced the new program that focuses mainly on the states with watersheds into the Mississippi river.
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