Speakers will discuss watershed
The West Fork Crooked Creek Watershed group will have an informational meeting next week about how the water quality initiative and soil initiative practices, such as cover crops, can help improve water and soil quality for the 268 farmers who live within the watershed.
The meeting will be Thursday, March 6, at the Washington County Extension Office from 2 to 3:30 p.m.
Speakers at the meeting include Iowa Department of Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey, Washington Soil Conservation District Chairman Aaron Meader, and several other speakers, according to a press release from the Washington Soil and Water Conservation District. They are partners with the watershed group, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Northey will speak about the water quality initiative and soil initiative practices and how the grant the watershed received may help with water quality and soil initiatives on farmland, said watershed steering committee chairperson Rob Stout.
“There are 80,000 acres of land in the watershed,” Stout said. “We hope we have a good turnout and hope to get more people involved.”
In December 2013, Northey announced the watershed received a grant of $484,250 to help with costs for starting water quality and soil initiatives on farmland.
“This project—what we got the grant for—the major part of it will be cover crops because they do the most as far as the nutrient management in decreasing loss of phosphorus into the water,” Stout said. “That’s where we hope to increase the amount of acres that are doing it in our watershed and hopefully cleaner water will go into Crooked Creek. Of course eventually that goes into the Skunk River and eventually that goes into the Mississippi River.”
Practices farmers use on their land in Iowa do affect the water quality downstream, Stout said. In the Gulf of Mexico algae is growing at high rates because of runoff of phosphorus and nitrogen from the Mississippi River. Cover crops help to prevent some of this from happening, Stout said.
Stout began planting cover crops on his farm five years ago. This past year he planted 600 of his 1,100-acre farm with cover crops.
“I think they’re just one of the best things you can do,” Stout said. “We really like it.”
He began using cereal rye to improve the soil composition on his farm. He has already noticed a difference with the organic matter in the soil.
“We know it’s working that way anyway,” Stout said, “and the higher the organic matter you have, the better the soil will actually release the nutrients that are in the soil, so you can actually hypothetically reduce your nutrients you put out because the organic matter releases nutrients.”
Another thing Stout thinks about while being involved with this project are future generations.
“I live here and maybe someday my grandkids will be playing in the streams as I used to do as a kid, and we want to keep the streams clear and clean and eventually that water will get down to our wells that we’ll be drinking,” he said. “It’s just a no-brainer to have the water be as clean as it can be for drinking, recreation, and keep the soil and nutrients out of it.”