Recent deluge shows value of conservation
These days the excitement of the start of the 2016 Iowa harvest is trending big all over social media. Farmers in nearly every part of the state are posting quick photos and short videos as they hustle to fire up their combines, open up their corn and soybean fields and get a first glimpse at this year’s yields.
But I’m seeing very different social media posts from farmers in Floyd, Butler and other counties in northeast and north central Iowa.
Their posts show flooded corn fields, downed soybeans and tangled rows of corn. It was all the work of last month’s wicked storms, which dumped more than a foot of rain in some places. Some counties were also buffeted by high winds and even a late season tornado.
In those parts of Iowa, harvest will be very different this year. Farmers could face a slow and muddy slog. And there are worries that all the additional moisture could reduce grain quality and make the crop tough to store.
The damage could also be felt well beyond this year’s harvest. That’s because the heavy rains and floods have damaged many conservation structures, like terraces, grass waterways and wetlands.
Structures pay dividends
But it could have been a lot worse. Farmers and others say the conservation structures, such as terraces and grassed waterways, have helped their fields withstand the deluge. Having the flexibility to install the structures where they fit into the landscape and can do the most good has helped save soil and reduce nutrient loss.
In addition, the conservation work upstream may have helped Cedar Rapids and other communities escape more serious flooding.
Iowa farmers clearly are taking on the challenge of improving the state’s water quality. As a recent report card showed, they are installing practices outlined in the state’s research-based water quality initiative that have proven to reduce nutrient loss and improve water quality.
Iowa farmers are also employing these practices to adapt their own operations to the increasingly erratic weather patterns in Iowa and around the Midwest. Those efforts are reducing nutrient loss, saving soil and improving water quality.
It’s a good story. And it’s one that we’ll probably be seeing a lot more in the coming years on our social media feeds.
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