Conservation projects at a northern Iowa research farm are proving that practices like cover crops and wetlands can help meet the goals of Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy, said Matt Hel­mers, Iowa State University (ISU) water quality engineer.

"Managing nitrogen is a start, but we’re probably not going to reach the goals we want just by doing that," Helmers said at a field day at ISU’s agriculture drainage research farm near Gilmore City. Iowa’s nutrient strategy, an­­nounced last year, aims to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus entering the state’s waterways by 45 percent.

Long-term research at ISU’s demonstration site proves cover crops trim nitrate losses by 15 to 20 percent or more, said Helmers. "It seems our performance may be improving over time," he noted.

Research also shows targeted wetlands reduce nitrate loading to waterways ...