So, what’s in the water?

EAGLE GROVE – There have been several efforts put toward improving water quality by many different agencies.

A volunteer program to help producers monitor nitrates flowing through their tile lines was introduced last week by Natural Resources and Conservation Service, Iowa Soybean Association and IOWATER.

“We are trying to connect people with a citizen-based water monitoring program to help us get water monitoring where we normally wouldn’t be,” said Mary Skopec IOWATER coordinator.

The program will provide producers with test strips. When dipped in collected water from a running tile line or nearby field stream. the strips will react with any chemicals present. The levels are read by comparing them to a color strip on the side of the bottle.

Participating producers will be asked to record field conditions during the test.

The information, Skopec said, may be turned in to either their local NRCS office, IOWATER or the ISA.

“The information will help compare amongst other operations in your county or area,” said Skopec. “It’s too late once the nitrates are in the river, we need to get it controlled in the watershed. This is about understanding the whole system and there are some opportunities to help stop some of these nutrient losses.”

Anthony Seeman, a watershed management specialist with ISA, said the tile monitoring test strips will help producers and land owners get a baseline of what nutrient losses are occurring on their farms and how to prevent it.

“You can’t take one test and solve the problem,” he said. “We are trying to move things along in an orderly fashion, not extremes, and these strips will give you some education for you to decide what to do from there.”

Some steps to help reduce nutrient losses include cover cropping, timely and split applications of nitrogen and installing a bioreactor.

Eagle Grove area farmer Tim Smith decided to seek help.

It was after some testing, Smith said, he realized something needed to be done.

“I thought I was doing everything I was supposed to,” said Smith. “I waited for it to get cold in the fall before applying my nitrogen, even using N-Serve, but until I tested my water, I didn’t realize I was part of the problem.

“If producers would understand what their tile lines had for nitrate levels, it would help them make better decisions,” said Smith. “Farmers need to start taking initiative, realize there’s a problem and take the steps to fix it.”

Smith said he is seeing huge results with lower nitrate levels by using cover crops, having a bioreactor installed and a delayed nitrogen application program.

“There are a lot of agencies that have an interest in this and they are there to help … not to tell you what you have to do,” Smith said,

More information on obtaining the tile line monitoring test strips can be found by contacting the Iowa Soybean Association at;Mary Skopec at IOWATER at; contacting a county’s NRCS office or Bruce Voigts, MRBI project coordinator for Wright and Hamilton counties at (515) 532-2165 or (515) 832-2916 or e-mailing bruce.voigts@ia.nacdnet.


A resource for determining adequate nitrogen

applications is and using the ISU Extension’s corn nitrogen rate calculator.