Investigating Opportunities for Enhancing Adoption of Strategically Targeted Prairie Strips in Iowa
Arbuckle, J. Gordon
It is increasingly recognized that agricultural policies and programs should strive to improve the multifunctionality and resiliency of agricultural systems by balancing crop and livestock production with the provision of ecosystem services, including soil protection, water retention and purification, pest control, and habitat (Pretty 2002; Palmer et al. 2004; Boody et al. 2005; Ruhl et al. 2007). Simultaneously, mounting evidence shows that the coordinated and targeted integration of perennial vegetation in row-cropped landscapes can provide both farmland conservation benefits and substantial increases in ecosystem services disproportionate to their spatial extent (Goldman et al. 2007; Secchi et al. 2008; Selman 2008). In July 2007, an interdisciplinary group of researchers established a series of annual-perennial vegetation treatments on 14 watersheds at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge. This project, the Science-based Trials of Rowcrops Integrated with Prairies (STRIPS), has demonstrated that strategic integration of native perennial buffers in intensively farmed landscapes can achieve significant agroecological benefits (e.g., capturing nutrients and sediment, increases in biodiversity) relative to their footprint (Zhou et al. 2010; Liebman et al. 2010). Building on the promising results of the research at Neal Smith, the STRIPS project is broadening its objectives to evaluate the efficacy of prairie strips in real-world application on working farms in diverse agroecological contexts across Iowa, with an emphasis on working toward widespread adoption of the practice to achieving the demonstrated benefits at broad scales.