Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture

STRIPS Research Team

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An interdisciplinary team of researchers from several ISU departments and collaborating institutions are investigating native prairie strips as a tool for improving the function and integrity of row-cropped farms. The project name is STRIPS (Science-based Trials of Rowcrops Integrated with Prairie Strips). Formerly known as "the Perennializers," the team is showing that small areas of prairie, strategically placed on the contours and foot slope of a row-cropped watershed, provide multifunctional benefits for farmland health.

The STRIPS experiment began in 2008 on 14 small watersheds at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge. The project has attracted substantial attention and interest from diverse stakeholders, and is currently being designed for demonstration on private farmland.

STRIPS has moved into its second phase, implementation on public and private land throughout Iowa. At the end of 2014, STRIPS had been planted at 22 locations throughout Iowa, including land owned by the Eastern Iowa Airport near Cedar Rapids.

Watch "outtakes" from STRIPS The Movie. Landowner Maggie McQuown talks about why she wants STRIPS. Anna MacDonald shares results of bird research she helped conduct at Neal Smith.

This publication, Small Changes, Big Impacts, describes the overall project in the context of the Iowa landscape and agricultural production.

goals of the Research Team:

  • Test the potential for obtaining multiple ecosystem service benefits (e.g., water quality, hydrologic regulation, biodiversity, production of commodity goods, quality of life) from watersheds supporting mixtures of annual commodity and perennial prairie plants
  • Provide new environmental and production knowledge leading to
    • adoption of new landuse practices,
    • policy enabling conservation enhancing practices and outcomes, and
    • improved environment (water quality, soil health and biodiversity improvements)

STRIPS publications

ABOUT THE PROJECT: STRIPS scientist Mary Harris outlines how the STRIPS team designed their research, what they found and how landowners and farmers may get involved in testing this innovative and efficient new conservation practice.

Other resources

Related grant projects

Links we like

Harvest Public Media asked Seth Watkins why he was adding STRIPS to his own farm in southern Iowa. Listen to the story [July 2013].

KMA Radio produced this 6-minute interview with Seth Watkins [August 2013].

If you'd like to put prairie strips on your land, you may be eligible for support from the Continuous Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Continuous CRP is focused on environmentally sensitive land. Learn more about how to enroll here. (Scroll down to the "Participant Information" section.)

More photos, research papers and profiles of all team members can be found on the STRIPS Research Team website.

Send an email to the research team: prairiestrips@iastate.edu