U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


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Agricultural Research Magazine 60(2): February 2012 pp. 17; ISSN 0002-161X


One place to figure out how agricultural practices affect water quality is in a crop field that is being converted to native prairie vegetation. In Iowa, natural resource managers are conducting this type of landscape restoration at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge near Prairie City. So this is where Agricultural Research Service soil scientists Mark Tomer and Cynthia Cambardella partnered with colleagues from Grinnell College, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Iowa Geological Survey Bureau (part of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources) to describe changes in water quality during prairie establishment.

The ARS researchers work at the National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment in Ames. Their group studied concentrations of nitrates and phosphorus in ground water in a 17- acre field while it was being converted from corn and soybean row-cropping to a reconstructed prairie. The researchers set up ground-water monitoring wells and collected water samples from 2002 through 2009.