EDITOR’S NOTE: This press release has been updated from a version published on September 14, 2021 to include a recording of the webinar.
AMES, Iowa — Iowa Learning Farms, in partnership with the Iowa Nutrient Research Center, and Conservation Learning Group (CLG), hosted a free virtual field day discussing the impact of prairie STRIPS (Science-Based Trails of Rowcrops Integrated Prairie Strips) on September 23 at 1 p.m. CDT. A recording is now available of a discussion with Randall Cass, Iowa State University (ISU) bee extension sepcialist, Amy Toth, ISU professor of entomology, and Kate Borchardt, ISU department of ecology, evolution and organismal biology graduate student.
Prairie strips are strategically placed native prairie plantings in crop fields to improve soil health and water quality, as well as providing critical habitat for wildlife and pollinators. The practice began as experimental plots at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge in 2007 and increasingly on commercial farms across Iowa.
Prairie strips provide both abundant and diverse flowering plants to agricultural landscapes, which are essential for supporting honey bees and conserving wild bees and butterflies. Flowers provide critical food resources for these insects: nectar for adult bees and butterflies, and pollen for the young bees. Furthermore, a growing body of scientific literature indicates that bee health is improved when they are provided a diverse diet of plants.
“With this work, we are exploring whether prairie habitat integrated into Iowa crop fields as prairie strips can sustain the health and populations of wild and managed bees,” stated Toth. “We know the strips provide benefits in terms of forage quantity and quality to wild and managed bees separately– but can they coexist? Thus, we are studying whether commercial honey beekeeping and wild bee conservation can be accomplished simultaneously in these landscapes, assessing the market value of prairie strips “conservation-focused” honey production.”
Established in 2004, Iowa Learning Farms is building a Culture of Conservation by encouraging adoption of conservation practices. Farmers, researchers and ILF team members are working together to identify and implement the best management practices that improve water quality and soil health while remaining profitable. Partners of Iowa Learning Farms include the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Iowa Department of Natural Resources (USEPA section 319) and GROWMARK, Inc.
— Iowa Learning Farms
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