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By Jean Caspers-Simmet

Date Modified: 04/04/2013 7:33 PM

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WESLEY, Iowa —Farmers attending the Northern Research Farm annual meeting in the Wesley Community Center said they would be willing to try a variety of farming practices aimed at reducing Iowa's nitrogen and phosphorus load.

After hearing a presentation on Iowa's Nutrient Reduction Strategy from John Lawrence, associate dean of Iowa State University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and Matt Helmers, ISU Extension ag engineer, farmers took part in discussions about the strategy.

"I was really pretty pleased with how much crowd response we had," said North Central Iowa Research Association president Dennis Schwab who farms at Corwith. "There was quite a lively discussion. This is one thing that probably is not going to go away. We'll probably be looking at this year after year. They're not going to leave us alone until we begin to address some of these problems."

The Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy is a science and technology-based approach to assess and reduce nutrients delivered to Iowa waterways and the Gulf of Mexico, Lawrence said. The strategy outlines voluntary efforts to reduce nutrients in surface water from both point sources, such as wastewater treatment plants, and non-point sources, including farm fields that will help Iowa reach the established goal of 45 percent reduction in total nitrogen and phosphorus load, Helmers said.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and Department of Natural Resources worked with ISU to develop the strategy, which is in response to the 2008 Gulf Hypoxia Action Plan.

"I liken this process to putting a man on the moon," Lawrence said. "We did that 40 years ago. It wasn't simple, but it wasn't impossible. This is something we can make real progress on and we need to make real progress on."

Farmers said reduced till, strip-till and no-till systems, cover crops, and variable rate phosphorous and potassium application are practices they would try. They said they would be willing to work on timing of nitrogen applications, try nitrogen stabilizers and consider split nitrogen applications with tissue testing prior to the second application.

Implementing controlled drainage, installing bio-reactors, establishing filter strips and eliminating surface tile intakes are other practices farmers said they would consider. Another suggestion was leaving corn in fields to act as snow fences.

When asked what incentives they would like to try new practices, farmers said that they wanted to see how new practices would benefit them financially. Another suggestion was an incentive that pays a percentage of the cost of a practice. Others said signs, hats and jackets could be used to get farmers to consider new systems. Having access to equipment so that they could try new practices such as no-till or strip-till on a few acres would be beneficial, farmers said.

If they were to take land out of production for a nutrient reduction practice, they would like it to not impact their corn base, farmers said. Another suggestion was land lease arrangements that compensate landowners for taking land out of production for such things as wetlands. An insurance program covering reduced yields if farmers try new nutrient reduction practices was also mentioned.

When asked what research farmers would like ISU to do, growers said controlled drainage, bioreactors and cover crops are areas that they'd like to see researched.

Farmers said they'd like to see strip-till and no-till comparisons as well as studies on which hybrids and varieties perform best in reduced tillage systems. Research on slow release nitrogen as well as organic production are other areas they want studied.

Stream bank protection and stabilization as well as looking at long-term interactions of a corn-on-corn with hog manure cropping system are additional areas where farmers want more research.