Published Nov 14, 2018

Understanding and Managing Impacts of Farmed Prairie Potholes

By Practical Farmers of Iowa

Leaching of nitrate and emissions of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas, are key environmental impacts of Corn Belt agricultural systems. Intermittent flooding of former prairie pothole wetlands (that are now farmed) can contribute disproportionately to these nitrogen losses at the landscape scale. These potholes may also flood often enough to hamper crop development – and in many cases, can pose logistical challenges to farm or farm around. Land management changes such as reduced tillage, or even more radical moves like retiring land, may provide a number of environmental benefits at relatively low cost.

Amy Kaleita is a professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering at Iowa State University. Her research is in the area of information technology for precision conservation, with particular attention to hydrology and soil and water quality.

Steven Hall is an assistant professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology at ISU. His group’s research focuses on soil biogeochemical processes in managed and natural ecosystems.