Iowa Learning Farms and The Eastern Iowa Airport to host bio-renewables and prairie strips field day

August 22, 2016

Iowa Learning Farms, along with The Eastern Iowa Airport, University of Iowa and the STRIPS project, will host a field day on Thursday, September 8th. The 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. field day near Cedar Rapids is free and open to the public. It will begin with a complimentary meal served by the Linn County Cattlemen.

The field day will highlight the installation of prairie strips and biomass fuel crop Miscanthus at The Eastern Iowa Airport in Cedar Rapids. As one of the largest farms in Linn County, the airport farmland is leased and farmed by five local farmers. It has over 1,900 acres in corn and soybean production and is located at the top of the Cedar and the Iowa Rivers watersheds.

In an effort to have a positive and sustainable impact on the environment, while still generating revenue, the airport partnered with Iowa State University and the STRIPS Project as well as the University of Iowa Biomass Fuel Project.

Through these partnerships, the airport seeded about 10 percent of a 100-acre section to prairie to monitor the impacts on soil and water quality. In addition, Giant Miscanthus was planted on about 63 acres of low performing farmland. Both the Miscanthus and the prairie grass will be harvested for use in the Biofuel Project.

Speaking at the field day is Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett, Emily Heaton, Iowa State University assistant professor of agronomy and extension biomass specialist, Lisa Schulte-Moore Iowa State University professor of Natural Resource Ecology and Management and STRIPS team researcher, University of Iowa representatives Ingrid Gronstal-Anderson and Ben Anderson, and Airport Director Marty Lenss.

The field day site will be at the Eastern Iowa Airport, Curtiss Ct, Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52404. The field day will take place west of the main terminal. From Exit 13 oh I-380 head west on Wright Brothers Blvd for 2.5 miles. Turn left onto Cessna Pl SW following the field day signs. Parking is available on the north and south sides of Curtiss Ct.

The workshop is free and open to the public, but reservations are suggested to ensure adequate space and food. Contact Liz Juchems at 515-294-5429 or emaililf@iastate.edu.

The STRIPS project, Science-based Trials of Rowcrops Integrated with Prairie Strips, is at Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge, Prairie City. During the 2007 to 2012 trial period, the team found that this 10 percent conversion to prairie reduced sediment export by 95 percent, total phosphorus export by 90 percent, and total nitrogen export by nearly 85 percent when compared to the losses from the 100 percent row-crop, no-till watersheds. Iowa farmers are now applying this conservation practice on their own fields for the benefits that the research results have shown.

The biomass fuel crop the airport will be growing is a large perennial grass called Miscanthus (specifically, Miscanthus × giganteus) a sterile, noninvasive variety. As a deep-rooted perennial grass, it provides soil and water quality protection similar to prairie strips. Miscanthus is able to produce more biomass of fuel per acre, and per unit input, than other types of grass or prairie, making it more economically viable and reducing the amount of land needed for fuel production.

For more information about Iowa Learning Farms, visit the website: http://www.extension.iastate.edu/ilf/.

Established in 2004, Iowa Learning Farms is building a Culture of Conservation, encouraging adoption of conservation practices. Farmers, researchers and ILF team members are working together to identify and implement the best management practices that improve water quality and soil health while remaining profitable. Partners of Iowa Learning Farms are the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Iowa Natural Resources Conservation Service and Iowa Department of Natural Resources (USEPA section 319), Conserva­tion Districts of Iowa, Iowa Farm Bureau, Iowa Water Center and Practical Farmers of Iowa.

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