Currently, Iowa is in the early years of implementing the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy (NRS), a science-based plan that will take decades to accomplish. Experience and research has shown that it can take more than one in-field or edge-of-field practice to reach nutrient reduction goals. In tile-drained landscapes, nitrate is a key focus. The combination of practices needed to reduce nitrate loss may include cover crops, adaptive management of nutrient application rates and timing, along with practices like bioreactors or saturated buffers.
Local watershed planning is essential to determine the right combination of practices for each field and each farm as an integrated system that best meets local watershed and priority resource needs.
Farmers, conservation experts and scientists are working together to perfect and scale up practices known to reduce nutrients in water. Depending on conditions on a particular farm, it’s possible for farmers to be using more than one practice. In general, producers make decisions within the context of their total operations’ profitability.
These are practices that producers must consider every year. These practices also take place ‘in the field’ rather than at the ‘edge-of-field’ and include cover crops, no-till/strip-till, extended crop rotations, nutrient management and drainage water management.
Once implemented, some practices keep providing water quality benefits year after year, and only require occasional maintenance to keep working. Some of these practices are installed within the cropped area of the field and some are placed at the edge of the field.