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Ag Conservation: The Gift that Keeps Giving to Iowans

November 21, 2007

Ames, IA - When you're doing something right, it shows. The conservation practices used on many Iowa farms are having a positive impact on Iowa's water quality. A new study by Iowa State University finds that one of the 'best buys' Iowans have made in recent years is their investment in conservation.

Iowans today spend about $435 million on agricultural conservation programs. Jeri Neal with the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture says the ISU study confirms that these practices have made a big dent in water pollution that comes from farmland.

"By implementing the current practices, just seven of them, we are getting rid of 11 percent to 38 percent of the total nitrogen, 6 percent to 28 percent of the nitrate and 25 percent to 58 percent of the phosphorus."

Neal says these reductions have led to lower levels of pollutants in watersheds across the state. But she adds it is going to take more money to get better results if agricultural producers only stick to the current conservation practices.

"We discovered that if we just keep plugging away at the six or seven major practices used with our two commodity crops, it is going to cost us more and more money to get more accomplished with respect to better water quality in the state."

She says the most cost-effective methods in the future may depend more on the types of crops grown and the conservation methods that become a part of each working farm.

The study was funded by the Leopold Center, Iowa Farm Bureau and Iowa Corn and Soybean Associations. The full report is at

Dick Layman/Eric Mack, Public News Service - IA