ISU research farms monitoring water quality

IARN — All this week, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach is hosting a series of virtual field days via Zoom. Tuesday’s session focused on water quality.

Matt Helmers, ISU professor and extension agricultural engineer, led the discussion which took a deep look at the infrastructure in place at ISU research farms to monitor water quality. Helmers provided data and analysis from the Northwest Research Farm near Sutherland. He says the farm’s drainage water quality research facility was installed in 2013 and has 16 sumps that collect water from individually sub-surfaced drain plots.

“Within each of these sumps, we have a host of PVC piping to allow us to monitor flow and collect water samples,” Helmers said. “Drainage from each of the individual plots dumps into one of the sumps, kind of like a garden variety sump like you might see in many household basements in Iowa. The water drops into there and it’s then pumped out with a sump pump. Inline in that PVC is a flow meter so that we can record and capture how much flow is being pumped out of there in order to calculate how much flow is being drained from that individual plot.”

Helmers says the staff analyzes data for nitrogen and phosphorus. They have been monitoring these water quality efforts since 2015.

“We have five years of data,” he said. “This is combining the corn phase and soybean phase looking at the annual flow weighted nitrate nitrogen concentration for either the corn phase or soybean phase. Corn and soybeans are present every year with four plots of corn and four plots of soybeans. What we can see is that we see no statistically significant difference in nitrate nitrogen concentration between when we apply that nitrogen in the fall or the spring.”

Wednesday’s ISU virtual field day will focus on Cardinal fungicide trials. The full schedule with descriptions can be found here.

Story courtesy of the Iowa Agribusiness Radio Network.