ILF Webinar: Agricultural Climate Resilience through Water Management and Soil Conservation

This Iowa Learning Farm Conservation Webinar will feature Rick Cruse, professor of agronomy and director of the Iowa Water Center at Iowa State University. Cruse was raised on a farm in Northeast Iowa and has been engaged with Iowa farmers while working at Iowa State University for over 40 years. His research, teaching and extension efforts address management impacts on soil erosion, water and crop production.

Cruse will highlight factors and practices which affect agricultural climate resilience. He will focus on the importance of water and water management and discuss actions including draining excess water, capitalizing on water sourced from shallow groundwater, and maximizing water infiltration and storage through improving soil health.

“Water and water management are the most fundamental components of climate-resilient farm plans,” says Cruse. “We are eager to help Midwest farmers gain a better understanding of the underutilized water resources that they may already have and how those resources can substantially improve their climate resilience.”

Shortly before noon CST, click the link below or type this web address into your internet browser:

Iowa Water Center Kicks off a Learning Community for Water Resources Researchers


By Hanna Bates, Program Coordinator for the Iowa Water Center

On a Tuesday afternoon in early September, the Gold Room in the Iowa State University Memorial Union was filled with a diverse audience of faculty on campus from departments such as Design, Food Sciences, Natural Resources Ecology and Management, Agronomy, English, and others. As participants trickled into the room, they realized that though many of them had never met before, they have a research topic in common – water resources.

This meeting was to kick off the Iowa Water Center-led water resources research learning community, Water Scholars. This is a year-long program funded by a CEAH-OVPR New Explorations grant to support faculty research on campus. This program originated from a cursory directory search of campus departments conducted by IWC staff. This inventory led to the discovery that there are approximately 200 faculty members at Iowa State University whose research touches water in some way or another, but are working in different spaces both physically and topically. The goal of Water Scholars is to break down barriers between the arts and sciences to get researchers thinking outside the box and work together to create resilient research that addresses Iowa’s complex water resource concerns.

Water Scholars will meet on a monthly basis from September to April during the academic year. Sessions will explore professional development topics, such as science communication and grant tools, through engaging presentations. Supplanted by small group work, this program will enable attendees to make use of information given by presenters as well as give them the opportunity to build relationships with others in the water resources community on campus.


The methods we use to engage participants are, at times, unorthodox. At the first session, attendees shared their research topics through a game of Pictionary with other members of Water Scholars. This activity challenged faculty to translate research field jargon into accessible shapes and pictures on paper. As the game progressed, laughter and shared conversation could be heard throughout the room as people stepped outside of their comfort zone and got to know different research projects and interests in water from across campus.

2019-2020 is a pilot year for the Water Scholars. We plan on going statewide in the Fall of 2020 to help bring water resource faculty and professionals at college and universities across Iowa together to build communities of research that encourage the development of innovative, interdisciplinary research teams.

2019-2020 Water Scholars

  • Antonio Mallarino, Agronomy
  • Austin Stewart , Art and Visual Culture
  • Biswa Das, Community and Regional Planning and ISU Extension
  • Brian Gelder, Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering
  • Carmen Gomes, Mechanical Engineering
  • Chaoqun Lu, Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology
  • Clark Wolf, Philosophy, Political Science
  • Emily Zimmerman, Natural Resource Ecology and Management
  • Grace Wilkinson, Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology
  • Guiping Hu, Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering
  • John Tyndall, Natural Resource Ecology and Management
  • Jonathan Claussen, Mechanical Engineering
  • Keith Vorst, Food Science and Human Nutrition
  • Kevin Roe, Natural Resource Ecology and Management
  • Kristie Franz, Geological and Atmospheric Sciences
  • Laura Merrick, Agronomy
  • Linda Shenk, English
  • Matthew Helmers, Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering
  • Nicole Hashemi, Department of Mechanical Engineering
  • Omar de Kok-Mercado, Natural Resource Ecology and Management
  • Peter Moore, Natural Resource Ecology and Management
  • Ramesh Kanwar, Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering
  • Stewart Melvin, Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering
  • William Beck, Natural Resource Ecology and Management


00100sPORTRAIT_00100_BURST20190328072958569_COVER (4)Hanna Bates is the Program Coordinator for the Iowa Water Center. She holds a BA in Anthropology from the University of Iowa and an MS in Sociology and Sustainable Agriculture from Iowa State University. She is currently working on her MBA from the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business. 

Soil and water quality improvements in your backyard

Post written by Hanna Bates, Program Assistant at the Iowa Water Center

 Urban zones are ever expanding in Iowa with new houses, apartment complexes, and businesses emerging every year. Construction in urban zones often causes negative impacts on the soil, including compaction, which can thwart root zone growth in green spaces and may lead to erosion and water quality impairments. A new study by Logsdon et al. in the Journal of Water Resource and Protection shows that compost has the ability to improve soil and water quality in post construction sites in urban areas.

Researchers examined lawn grass plots and prairie plots that had simulated construction activities, such as driving over the plots with a tractor. This activity mimics the increase of soil compaction that occurs at construction sites due to the heavy machinery used. The plots received a treatment with three types of compost application methods: compost with aeration, rototill and compost, and surface compost. These plots were compared against bluegrass, which is a traditional lawn grass, without compost. Plots then underwent a rainfall scenario with the use of a rainfall simulator. Researchers measured numerous variables in the soil including soil water, bulk density (the degree of compaction), and morphology (the observable elements of the soil).

The study found that the use of compost lessened the bulk density in the soil (Logsdon et al 2017). High bulk density is an indicator that the soil has low absorbency for water and limits plant growth. By lowering bulk density, there is an increased ability to support healthy plant life and increase the water retained in the soil. In this study, compost additions not only provided the benefit for soil health, but it also darkened the soil more than the addition of topsoil. The study also found that when compost was combined with prairie grasses, it increased infiltration and minimized runoff and sediment loss when compared to bluegrass lawn.

If you’re a developer or even a homeowner, it may be worthwhile to consider composting and planting prairie rather than traditional lawn grass. It will not only keep your soil in place, but it will make a positive impact on the surrounding environment and lessen the stress on the public water infrastructure.

Logsdon, S.D., Sauer, P.A. and Shipitalo, M.J. (2017) Compost Improves Urban Soil and Water Quality. Journal of Water Resource and Protection, 9, 345-357. 7.


Hanna Bates is the Program Assistant at the Iowa Water Center. She has an MS in Sociology and Sustainable Agriculture from Iowa State University. She is currently pursuing an MBA with a leadership certificate from the University of Iowa.