Tools to track nutrient reduction progress

By Dan Looker

Iowa (IAWA) – Iowans can track nutrient reduction progress using two sources: the Iowa Nutrient Research and Ed­­­­­ucation Council (INREC) and Iowa State University’s online reporting dashboard.

INREC conducts statistically reliable surveys of ag retailers each year, meeting with agronomists to pick 1,000 representative locations. Other sources rely on data from government conservation grants alone, but Ben Gleason, head of INREC says that underestimates farmers’ efforts.

“I believe most of our growth comes from farmers expanding on their own acres with their own money,” Gleason said.

Overall, INREC’s data shows a trend of growth in practices like cover crop usage, but it’s not always a straight line. Cover crop acreage fell slightly in 2021, for example.

“We had a tremendous trajectory until then,” Gleason said. “Hopefully it will get back on track.”

He said farmers had concerns over rising seed costs, water needed by cover crops in dry years, and supply chain glitches with herbicides used on cover crops. A table showing INREC’s 5 years of survey data can be found here.

Iowa State University’s nutrient reduction progress measurement chart

Iowa State University also tracks progress of water quality practices. Here you’ll find three interactive dashboards: one for land use, one for edge-of-field practices and erosion control, and another for permits issued to wastewater and industrial facilities. The dashboards include detailed graphs and maps.

A new one on the human dimension will be finished this summer, said Rob Davis at ISU Extension and Outreach. That will track knowledge, attitudes and engagement with conservation work.

Published on March 31, 2023