Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture

Completed Competitive Grant

Conversion to perennial vegetation: Quantifying soil water regime, aeration, and implications for enhancing soil resilience to climate change

Project ID: E2009-18


Iowa was once awash with native prairie vegetation, and now it is covered with annual crops. This project looked at the different effects these two systems have on Iowa's landscape and natural resource base.

Key Question: What are the environmental impacts of corn- and prairie-based systems on soil, water and air?

Findings: Results indicate that relative to corn systems, prairie systems reduced soil compaction, decreased soil water drainage, decreased nitrate leaching, decreased soil nitrous oxide emissions, and increased soil carbon dioxide emissions. Overall, the prairie systems had favorable environmental impacts relative to corn systems.

Lead investigator: Robert Horton, ISU Agronomy


Thomas Sauer, USDA National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment, and Aaron L. Daigh, ISU Agronomy

Year of grant completion: 2012

This competitive grant project was part of the Leopold Center's Ecology Initiative.

Topics: Conservation practices, Soils and agronomy, Water quality, quantity and management