- Associated Press - Sunday, April 13, 2014

SIOUX CENTER, Iowa (AP) - A research project in northwest Iowa is looking at ways to keep fertilizer out of drinking water by planting certain crops to help contain nitrogen.

The project on Matt Schuiteman’s land near Sioux Center yielded lessons that may be useful in other areas, the Sioux City Journal reported (https://bit.ly/1jCxgXv ).

The research got started because some of Schuiteman’s land is close to wells Sioux Center relies on for drinking water, and nitrate levels were rising.

The project looked at five different ways to use perennials and cover crops to limit the amount of nitrogen that washed away. Cover crops are planted between growing seasons to limit erosion and replenish nutrients in the soil.

“We’ve been using cover crops more and more for four or five years,” said Schuiteman, who also has a cow-calf herd. “Some of the things we’ve learned are really effective at keeping the nitrates out of the water.”

A $90,000 grant helped pay for the research that evaluated alternatives such as growing corn two summers in a row with a winter rye cover crop in between or rotating corn with alfalfa, red clover, oats, wheat and soybeans.

Dordt environmental studies professor Robb De Haan said the research shows potential for raising more alfalfa acres in Sioux County. The nearby beef and dairy cattle creates demand for forage, and the alfalfa helps contain nitrates.

“The idea was to use perennial crops and cover crops to keep the nitrogen in the upper layers of the soil and available for next season, and apply just what the crops need when they need it,” Dordt environmental studies professor Robb De Haan said.

Schuiteman said he plans to start growing alfalfa on his land in rotation with corn because that proved effective.

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Information from: Sioux City Journal, https://www.siouxcityjournal.com


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