Iowa’s Nutrients: Agricultural Inputs and Exports

Iowa soils have given way to 92,000 farms across 48,100 square miles (86% of Iowa’s total land area) that lead the U.S. in two of the most versatile grains; corn and soybean. Meanwhile, Iowa also leads the U.S. in hog meat and egg production. Corn and soybeans, hog meat, and eggs annually produce a multi-billion dollar export industry. However, life vital nutrients from Iowa’s land are also exported in tremendous quantities with these agricultural exports. To sustain Iowa’s agriculture productivity, these nutrients, such as nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P), must continually be replenished to the soil. To address our question regarding sustaining productivity and our natural resources we need to consider Iowa’s land as a whole including both soil and water.

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Leung Selected as a Recipient for the Iowa Water Center’s Institute Research Grant Competition

Written by Sarah Feehan, Communications Specialist

AMES, IOWA – The Iowa Water Center (IWC) annually administers a statewide grant competition known as the IWC Graduate Student Research Competition.

The purpose of this funding is to enable graduate students to complete additional research objectives beyond the scope of their current work, with an emphasis on submitting their research to peer-reviewed publications.

Tania Leung has been selected among three other graduate students from across Iowa. She and the other recipients will receive funding for a variety of proposed research.

Tania Leung Head Shot
Tania Leung, PhD candidate at Iowa State University.

Leung’s proposed research encompasses harmful algal blooms and cyanobacteria in Iowa’s waters. It is titled ‘Determining the Effects of Co-Nutrient Availability on Harmful Algal Blooms Across Varying Lake Types’.

Associate Director of the IWC Melissa Miller says, “Water Resources Research Institutes like the Iowa Water Center were authorized by Congress in part to address emerging water resources concerns through research. Ms. Leung’s research investigates a question that water professionals in this region posed during a recent public discussion on harmful algal blooms.”

“I’m most looking forward to are the results of this research,” Leung says. “For example, do iron concentrations vary from lake to lake? And if so, why? Is it geologically impacted or not? And if these iron concentrations do vary from lake to lake, then the next question: Do these harmful algal blooms also vary in terms of how intense they are? And if they are very intense, do the toxins vary?”

Miller says, “This is an excellent example of the value of creating feedback loop between the research community with professionals and engaged citizens in order to rapidly respond to pressing issues.”

Get to Know Tania Leung, PhD Candidate at Iowa State University

Leung is from a small town in southern Florida about 5 or 6 hours north of Key West called Lauderhill. She received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Florida Atlantic University.

During her master’s, Leung discovered her passion for water quality and decided to pursue this interest with a PhD in geology and environmental sciences at Iowa State University (ISU).

“I always knew I wanted to do a PhD, but I just didn’t know where. So, I started my research by looking for professors who shared similar interests as me regarding water quality,” says Leung. She found what she was searching for.

Tania Leung and Research Work
Leung conducting field research.

“There was a professor at ISU who had a project that was looking into harmful algal blooms. She was trying to see if the iron content or concentrations in the lake water contribute to harmful algal blooms.”

Coming from Florida, Leung was familiar with widespread harmful algal blooms along the coast. However, she hadn’t heard of these blooms being inland until she came to ISU. She says this inland perspective in Iowa has given her, “new insight.”

Leung’s adviser, Elizabeth Swanner, saw on Twitter back in September a tweet about the IWC’s Graduate Student Research Competition. Swanner then ran the idea by Leung.

“Well I never thought a tweet of all things,” Leung says. “Normally I think we as graduate students look for agencies that are looking for grants that we can apply to, but this is interesting that my adviser saw something on Twitter. That was a fun and surprising moment when she told me that.”

One of Leung’s favorite hobbies is cooking. “I took up cooking during my master’s. I love trying new recipes and figuring out what works and what doesn’t,” Leung says.


For more information about this year’s recipients, please visit https://iawatercenter.wordpress.com/. To reference the general press release for all four recipients, please visit: http://www.water.iastate.edu/news/iowa-water-center-announces-2019-grant-recipients.

The Iowa Water Center is a federally funded organization, part of the National Institutes for Water Resources. Located on the Iowa State University campus, it is one of 54 institutes located throughout the United States and U.S territories. The purpose of the Iowa Water Center is to identify water-related research needs, provide outreach and education opportunities, and disseminate information about Iowa’s water resources to the public to form better policies and everyday practices. Learn more at https://www.water.iastate.edu/


0Sarah Feehan is the communications specialist for the Iowa Water Center. She holds a BS in Journalism and Mass Communication with a minor in Political Science from Iowa State University. In fall of 2019, Feehan will begin acquiring her JD from Drake Law School.

Lawrence Selected as a Recipient for the Iowa Water Center’s Institute Research Grant Competition

Written by Sarah Feehan, Communications Specialist

AMES, IOWA – The Iowa Water Center (IWC) annually administers a statewide grant competition known as the IWC Graduate Student Research Competition.

The purpose of this funding is to enable graduate students to complete additional research objectives beyond the scope of their current work, with an emphasis on submitting their research to peer-reviewed publications.

Nate Lawrence has been selected among three other graduate students from across Iowa. He and the other recipients will receive funding for a variety of proposed research.

nathaniellawrence
Nate Lawrence, graduate student at Iowa State University.

Lawrence’s proposed research encompasses nitrate contamination in agricultural systems. It is titled ‘Denitrification in Agricultural Depressions by Nitrate Isotope Analysis’.

“The question that this grant targets is ‘to what extent are low-lying areas in fields, which are common across the Midwest, functioning as intermittent wetlands which remove nitrate pollution from water and how much of the nitrate removed is reduced nitrous oxide, a powerful greenhouse gas,’” Lawrence says.

Associate Director of the IWC Melissa Miller says, “Water Resources Research Institutes like the Iowa Water Center were authorized by Congress in part to address emerging water resources concerns through research.”

This grant will allow Lawrence to quantify how much denitrification removes nitrate before it flows to tile lines and ultimately surface waters. Lawrence’s theory is that low-lying areas in agriculture fields may remove nitrate before it ends up in the stream, acting as intermittent wetlands embedded in agriculture fields.

Miller says, “Landscape depressions are very evident with wet seasons, like we saw in fall 2018 and spring 2019, and research like Mr. Lawrence’s project is imperative for determining how we manage low-lying areas. The results could impact both water quality downstream as well as decision-making for in-field profitability.”

Get to Know Nate Lawrence, Graduate Student at Iowa State University

Lawrence is originally from a town in central Illinois called Monticello. He completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Illinois, where his interest in research took off.

“My undergraduate research at the University of Illinois also focused on soil nutrient cycling, which led me to my current research questions,” Lawrence says.

His research focuses on climate change and water pollution because he feels, “They are defining scientific questions with potential to address major environmental problems.”

Nate Larwrence Field Work
Lawrence conducting field work at the Been field site, an ISU-owned research farm off South Dakota Avenue in Ames, Iowa.

This topic brought him to Iowa because, “The Midwest is responsible for a large percentage of the world’s nitrous oxide emissions. These emissions are coupled to processes that produce nitrate pollution in water. So, Iowa is a fruitful place to look into soil nitrogen processes,” he says.

Lawrence is looking forward to connecting his two areas of study, water and greenhouse gases. He says, “It’s an interesting research project because it combines two areas of my research and may help clarify the processes of both.”

Lawrence describes his research colleagues at Iowa State University as, “…an inviting community with cutting-edge research, collaboration, and professional opportunities.” The Department of Evolution and Organismal Biology at Iowa State University has helped Lawrence thrive in his area of study.

In his free time, Lawrence enjoys being outside in a non-research capacity. Gardening, fishing, and hunting are a few of his favorite outdoor activities.


For more information about this year’s recipients, please visit: https://iawatercenter.wordpress.com/. To reference the general press release for all four recipients, please visit: http://www.water.iastate.edu/news/iowa-water-center-announces-2019-grant-recipients.

The Iowa Water Center is a federally funded organization, part of the National Institutes for Water Resources. Located on the Iowa State University campus, it is one of 54 institutes located throughout the United States and U.S territories. The purpose of the Iowa Water Center is to identify water-related research needs, provide outreach and education opportunities, and disseminate information about Iowa’s water resources to the public to form better policies and everyday practices. Learn more at https://www.water.iastate.edu/.


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Sarah Feehan is the communications specialist for the Iowa Water Center. She holds a BS in Journalism and Mass Communication with a minor in Political Science from Iowa State University. In fall of 2019, Feehan will begin acquiring her JD from Drake Law School.

 

 

Oxbows for Conservation and Nutrient Reduction in Iowa Floodplains

Post submitted by Clay L. Pierce, U.S. Geological Survey and Keith E. Schilling, Iowa Geological Survey

Formed when looping stream meanders are cut off through bank erosion or as the result of artificial stream straightening, oxbows are a common geomorphic feature in floodplains of Iowa’s agricultural landscape. Early accounts of habitat use by many fish species in prairie streams in Iowa and other Midwestern states describe habitats such as slow pools, submerged and emergent vegetation, side channels, and backwaters – habitats that are rare or nonexistent in those streams today. Oxbows are frequently among the few remaining slow or standing water habitats associated with many streams in these regions. Previous studies have established oxbows’ conservation value for Topeka shiners, federally listed as an endangered species, as well as their habitat value for numerous other native fish species. Studies conducted over the last two decades in Iowa consistently report greater prevalence and abundances of Topeka shiners in oxbows than in their associated streams. Ten other fish species of greatest conservation need have also been found in Iowa oxbows.

Widespread nutrient loss from agricultural areas in the U.S. Midwest is impacting aquatic ecosystems at both local and regional scales, including the Gulf of Mexico. Enhancing ecosystem services in floodplains offers opportunities to achieve nutrient reduction benefits in agricultural watersheds while minimizing loss of crop production areas. Preliminary studies in Iowa suggest that oxbows intercepting surface and tile water can reduce the amount of nitrate-nitrogen reaching streams by roughly one half.

Ongoing conservation studies, which will be presented in the oxbow track of the upcoming 2018 Iowa Water Conference, describe efforts to identify oxbow remnants for restoration, landscape and habitat characteristics of oxbows associated with presence of Topeka shiners, restoration programs in Iowa to increase the number and quality of oxbows for Topeka shiners, and efforts to evaluate the success of oxbow restorations. Also to be presented in the oxbow track of the 2018 Iowa Water Conference are three studies addressing water quality benefits of oxbows describing quantification of nutrient reduction benefits at individual oxbow sites and exploring the value and benefits of oxbow restorations within a watershed water quality planning context. A comparison of the value of oxbow restorations within the context of statewide nutrient reduction strategies in Iowa will also be discussed.

Clay Pierce is the Assistant Leader of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Iowa Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at Iowa State University in Ames.

Keith Schilling is an Associate State Geologist and Research Engineer for the Iowa Geological Survey at the University of Iowa in Iowa City.

Get to know the Rathbun Land and Water Alliance

The Rathbun Land and Water Alliance was established in 1997 to promote cooperation between public and private sectors in an effort to protect land and water resources in the Rathbun Lake Watershed. The Rathbun Lake Watershed is located in the six southern Iowa Counties of Appanoose, Clarke, Decatur, Lucas, Monroe, and Wayne and covers 354,000 acres. Rathbun Lake is the primary water source for Rathbun Regional Water Association, which provides drinking water to 80,000 people in southern Iowa and northern Missouri.

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2016 Fall Watershed Academy

A few weeks ago, approximately 70 Iowa-based water professionals came together for the Watershed Academy. This two-day event was co-organized by Iowa State University Extension & Outreach, Conservation Districts of Iowa, the Soil and Water Conservation Society, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The Academy sought to provide the latest information on conservation practices and educational resources.

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Monitoring in the Black Hawk Lake Watershed

Black Hawk Lake is an important recreational resource in Iowa. Recently, the lake has had high levels of algae and turbidity. High levels of algae is problematic because it inhibits the natural function of aquatic ecosystems. Turbidity, or the suspension of particles within a water body, also has a negative impact on water quality. The cloudiness within water systems can affect light penetration and can also reduce the volume water systems can hold, and therefore, reduce the space that aquatic habitat can live in. With support from Iowa Department of Natural Resources and other funding sources, such as the Iowa Water Center, we are monitoring the water quality at three sites in the Black Hawk Lake watershed. This is with the goal of determining the effectiveness of strategies used to address the algae and turbidity problems.

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FUNDING OPPORTUNITY: IWC’s 104(b) competition

At long last, the Iowa Water Center has released the request for proposals for the 2016 104(b) seed grant competition. Proposals are due November 16, 2015. This year, there are two programs for which to apply:

Seed Grant Water Research Competition

Funding of up to $30,000 for one year is available for researchers at one of Iowa’s accredited public or private universities or community colleges. Multiple year projects will be considered for the seed grant water research competition, but continued funding for subsequent years is subject to the availability of funds and progress made in the first year. The proposal must indicate what results/products can be achieved in each individual project year. Subsequent year funding is not guaranteed. Researchers seeking second-year funding must resubmit their proposal showing a new budget and progress made.

Priority will be given to projects that show potential for attracting additional grant money from state, federal, and other sources to support the research program. If funded, two short but required reports must be completed during the project year as a USGS requirement. The Iowa Water Center will also request a fact sheet from your work and a contribution to the Iowa Water Conference in the form of a poster or presentation.

In subsequent years, the Iowa Water Center will contact investigators to survey future impacts resulting from the seed grant funding, including “follow-on funding” and partnerships made as a result of grant activities.

The Iowa Water Center anticipates funding one seed grant in 2016.

Graduate Student Supplemental Research Competition

Funding of up to $5,000 for one year is available to graduate students nearing completion of their program of study. This program is designed to allow students to complete additional research objectives or products beyond the scope of their current water related funded project. The proposed budget must also include funds for publication costs; students will be encouraged to submit their research to peer-reviewed publications. Iowa Water Center staff will be available to help facilitate such submissions.

The Iowa Water Center anticipates funding two graduate student supplemental grants in 2016.

Priority Area for 2016: nutrients

This year’s focus will be on nutrients and their impact on Iowa’s waters and water management decisions. Excess nutrients in Iowa’s waters contribute to significant water quality issues, both locally and downstream. Public awareness of nutrient-related water quality issues is rising along with pressure on legislative bodies to address nutrient management issues through regulation.

Nutrients in water is a broad topic that may encompass any of the following areas related to excess nutrients in surface and ground water:

  • land use implications
  • tile drainage management
  • sedimentation and phosphorus loss
  • eutrophication
  • water quality monitoring

If you have any questions about this program, please contact Melissa Miller.