Iowa Learning Farms Virtual field days to improve water quality

AMES, Iowa – Iowa Learning Farms, in partnership with the Iowa Nutrient Research Center and the Conservation Learning Group, will host two upcoming virtual field days focused on improving water quality.

The December 8 virtual field day will focus on drainage water recycling, followed by a December 15 virtual field day focusing on saturated riparian buffers.

Both events begin at 1 p.m. CDT. At the December 8 event, Matt Helmers, director of the Iowa Nutrient Research Center and agricultural engineering specialist at Iowa State University Extension and Outreach; Chris Hay, senior research scientist at the Iowa Soybean Association; Shane Wulf, Senior Environmental Specialist for the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Services; and Mark Schleisman, Calhoun County farmer and landowner.

Chris Hay and Matt Helmers.Drainage water recycling is a drainage management system designed to capture water during rainy periods for later use when growing plants are thirsty. Versions have been around for years, but adoption has remained limited. Interest is now growing as the practice is recognized for its potential to improve water quality and help farmers reduce risk from weather variability.

During both virtual field days, attendees will have the opportunity to take a closer look at new installations that will be used to collect field data on the performance of these systems. These sites are being studied as part of a research project led by the Iowa Nutrient Research Center and the Iowa Soybean Association analyzing the costs and benefits of wastewater recycling, with funding from the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, the Iowa Nutrient Research Center and the Division EPA Gulf of Mexico.

“Too much rain or too little rain are two of the biggest problems for Iowa crops most years,” said Chris Hay. “Drainage water recycling can help farmers meet these challenges. Research – done mostly in other states – shows it can increase yields by up to 50% for corn and 30% for soybeans. Our early work modeling it here in Iowa also shows potential for significant yield increases, particularly in dry years, and the system may also benefit water quality and wildlife. But there is still work to be done to predict what farmers can expect in terms of return on investment.”

Virtual Field Day Access Guide

8 Dec Virtual Field Day. On the day of the event, just before 1:00 p.m., click this URL,, or visit and click Click Join Virtual Live Field Day.

Or join via a dial-in phone line by dialing +1.646.876.9923 or +1.301.715.8592, Meeting ID 945.3331.7620.

15 Dec Virtual Field Day. Just before 1pm on the day of the event, click on this URL:

Or join via a dial-up phone line by dialing 1-312-626-6799. Meeting ID: 914 1198 4892.

Both field days are recorded and archived on the ILF website for viewing at any time. Attendees may qualify for a Certified Crop Adviser Board-approved continuing education session. Information on how to apply for the CEU (if approved) will be provided at the end of the live field day.

Shareable photo: Chris Hay (left) and Matt Helmers visit the wastewater treatment plant at Mark Schleisman’s farm near Lake City, Iowa.