Planting small areas of native prairie could reduce water pollution from farm fields, according to new research published this week.
Iowa State University professor Lisa Schulte Moore has studied so-called prairie strips for ten years. They’re patches of land strategically planted to native, perennial mixes of grasses and flowers on the edges of crop fields.
Schulte Moore says, “What we’ve been able to document over a decade worth of research on prairie strips is that by converting just a little bit of that crop area to prairie strips, we get very substantial benefits.”
Those benefits include: dramatically reducing soil loss, retaining nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus, and attracting more pollinators and birds. In addition, the research shows solid backing for prairie strips from a wide cross-section of the population.
“Among Iowans, there’s really strong support for the kind of benefits that prairie strips provide,” she says. “There’s really not that much difference between farming and non-farming populations in Iowa in terms of supporting these benefits.”
The practice has expanded from research plots at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge in Prairie City to 47 commercial farm sites.
(Thanks to Amy Mayer, Iowa Public Radio)