(Ankeny)-- The Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) and environmental groups work with farmers to improve fish and wildlife habitat and water quality.
Iowa Soil and Water Conservation Week, April 27-May 4, is an excellent opportunity to recognize important conservation practices like oxbow restoration. The ISA, Fishers and Farmers Partnership, The Nature Conservancy, Sand County Foundation, Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have worked cooperatively over the past couple of years to restore five oxbows in north central Iowa’s Boone River Watershed.
“They act like a small wetland, filtering nutrients and providing excellent habitat for fish and wildlife,” said Keegan Kult, ISA’s Environmental Programs & Services environmental programs manager. “It’s an attractive practice to producers because (oxbows) are located in marginal land anyway.”
Iowa streams often change course, mainly during large floods. When a stream bend or meander gets cut off from the main channel, a small lake is formed. These disconnected segments are called oxbows, and they provide an important ecological function. If possible, field tiles are routed into the oxbow to process nutrients before water enters the adjacent stream.
Currently, many oxbows have filled with sediment and no longer hold water for extended periods. Thus, much of the benefits these systems could provide are gone. The ISA, along with farmer and organizational partners, is working to restore this habitat. If interested, contact Kult at (515) 334-1036 or email@example.com.
Sites are identified through aerial imagery. If the landowner is receptive, a restoration plan is developed and permits are obtained. Then, funding mechanisms are established so there is little or no cost to the landowner if possible.
Sediment is removed from the oxbow down to the native sands and gravels of the old streambed. Groundwater almost always fills the oxbow quickly. The sides are re-vegetated with native grasses to create prime habitat for birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish. Cool groundwater seeping in maintains fish populations during harsh summers and winters.
“We’ve done fish surveys and found a few thousand,” said Kult, including the endangered Topeka Shiner.
Other conservation practices embraced by farmers include cover crops, no-till, strip till, terraces, grass waterways, buffer strips and others. Studies show soil erosion per bushel of soybeans has decreased 66 percent since 1980. More than 95 percent of U.S. soybeans are grown on land that follows government conservation requirements.
To learn more about ISA, go to http://www.iasoybeans.com/">www.iasoybeans.com.