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April 6, 2017
06 Apr 2017


Bioreactors are an edge of field conservation drainage practice that is installed to improve water quality by reducing the amount of nitrates in drainage tile water before it is released to surface waters.

Results of research on pilot scale and field scale bioreactors show reduced nitrate levels in drainage water by 10% to greater than 90%, depending on the bioreactor, the drainage system, and the weather patterns for a given year. Some materials can be added to bioreactors to reduce phosphorous levels if present in the tile drainage water.

A bioreactor is a subsurface trench located along the edge of a field that is filled with a carbon source, most often wood chips. The trench is usually lined with a polymer material prior to the addition of the carbon source material to manage the water flows in the structure. A fabric material and topsoil cover the top of the bioreactor. The carbon source in the trench serves as a substrate for bacteria that breaks down the nitrate through denitrification processes converting it to nitrogen gas.

Water level control structures manage the flow of water into the bioreactor and allow excess flows to bypass the system so that the tile drainage system isn’t restricted. Usually two water control structures are used in the bioreactor design and each structure plays a different role. The inflow structure routes the water into the bioreactor, allowing excess water to bypass the bioreactor in the existing tile main during high-flow events. The outflow control structure manages the water within the bioreactor, ensuring that there is the proper time to remove nitrates from the water as it flows through and before leaving the structure. Depending on the topography of the site, new design methods may allow one water control structure to manage both inflows into and outflows from the bioreactor.

Bioreactors can be retrofitted to nearly any existing tile drainage systems and do not usually require any change in the drainage system. Good planning and careful siting can lead to little or no land being taken out of production. Soil type is not a criterion for locating these structures, so they can go in just about any location. The lifespan of a bioreactor is estimated to be 15 to 20 years. The area immediately above the bioreactor is not suitable for field traffic as the materials in the bioreactor are generally soft and can compress. Any method to exclude traffic from that area is advised.

The USDA-NRCS has financial assistance available in most states for the installation of bioreactors. Many nonprofits, Conservation Districts and some state agencies also have funding available to assist with the cost of implementing these structures.



March 10, 2016
10 Mar 2016

Partners of Scott County Watersheds Educational Lunch Forum

Kolby Jones from Ecosystem Services Exchange will discuss in-field and edge-of-field water quality agriculture practices such as; bioreactors, saturated buffers, sub-irrigation and drainage water management.Click here for more details


February 11, 2016
11 Feb 2016


For Immediate Release                                                                       Contact: Dustin Vande Hoef

Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016                                                         515/281-3375 or 515/326-1616 (cell)



LaCrosse Seeds, Agriland FS, New Leader, AgriDrain and Certified Crop Advisors Pat Tekippe and Terry Grote recognized for efforts to improve water quality


DES MOINES –Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey today announced four agribusinesses and two Certified Crop Advisors (CCAs) as recipients of the Secretary’s Iowa Ag Leader Award for outstanding leadership in improving Iowa’s water quality.  Northey recognized agribusinesses LaCrosse Seeds, Agriland FS, New Leader and AgriDrain and CCAs Pat Tekippe from Winneshiek County and Terry Grote from Black Hawk County.
“Partnerships have been a key to the Water Quality Initiative since the very start and it is great to be able to recognize these ag businesses and Certified Crop Advisors that have really taken a leadership role in helping advance water quality efforts in the state,” Northey said.  “We are fortunate to have support from many businesses and CCAs all across the state who have taken responsibility to help farmers and landowners improve water quality and it is great to be able to recognize these award winners.”


Northey presented the awards at the Agribusiness Association of Iowa’s Showcase and Conference at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines.


LaCrosse Seeds

LaCrosse Seeds is a leading forage, turf, cover crop, pasture and related agricultural seed supplier. They’re helping support and grow the use of cover crops in the state by providing not only a range of cover crop seed varieties and mixes, but also sound agronomic advice relating to the successful establishment and management of cover crops in Iowa.


LaCrosse has been an active partner in the ADM-Unilever Sustainable Soy program.  Offering discounts to participating producers for cover crop seed purchases.


Agriland FS, Inc.

Agriland FS is a farmer-owned cooperative servicing southern Iowa with 17 CCAs currently on staff. Agriland FS places a strong emphasis on the continuous training of new crop specialists and implementation of best management practices such as variable rate technology that support a voluntary, science based approach to implement Iowa’s nutrient loss reduction strategy.


The FS System has shown the effectiveness of managing nitrogen as a system that result in both economic and environmental benefits.  Agriland FS is guided by the 4Rs of nutrient stewardship, the use of soil testing, N-Watch, stabilizers, split applications, and cover crops when appropriate.  These efforts have led to significant investments in equipment and implements in order to deliver these services.


Agriland FS is a valuable member to the Bluegrass/Crabapple WQI watershed project in Audubon County.


New Leader

New Leader products are used to apply fertilizer, ag lime, micronutrients, seed and cover crop seed. These products contribute to nutrient efficiency because of the ability to variable rate up to four products at once.


They also recently developed an advancement that takes precision further with independent spinner speed operation for boundary spreading to reduce overlap. New Leader is leading in the efforts that contribute positively to Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy through improved nutrient management equipment development and manufacturing.



AgriDrain is a manufacturer of water control and management equipment.  These products are critical components to many of the practices in the Nutrient Reduction Strategy, including (but not limited to): wetlands, bioreactors, saturated buffers, ponds, terraces and controlled drainage.  AgriDrain has been a leader in developing the delivery and advancement of many of these technologies.  The products they manufacture can not only help improve water quality, but also have the potential to manage water in a way that boosts crop productivity and resilience.


The company is instituting a “Smart Drainage System” product line that includes automated controls and innovative management options.  They are a significant supporter of conservation projects and research efforts and have participated in 37 projects across the nation over past 5 years alone, including several water quality projects in Iowa


Pat Tekippe, Certified Crop Advisor in Winneshiek County

Tekippe is a Pioneer sales rep for Farmers Union Cooperative in NE Iowa (Ossian) and an active participant and advisory board member for the Central Turkey Watershed Project in NE Iowa.  In addition to using cover crops and other practices on his own farm, he coordinates aerial application of cover crops for area producers.  They seeded over 3200 acres last year. He’s been a great asset to the project through producer engagement at the co-op and presence at project events. He’s also an agronomist for Northeast Iowa Community College and been instrumental as the college’s farm has transitioned to no-till with cover crops.
Tekippe was recommended by Central Turkey River Nutrient Reduction Demonstration Project Coordinator, Michelle Elliott.


Terry Grote, Certified Crop Advisor in Black Hawk County

Grote is an agronomist for Spence Fertilizer in La Porte City.  In that role he has been an important contributor to the Miller Creek WQI project in Black Hawk County.  He has helped reach out to area farmers and provided information about nutrient management and has helped promote interest in strip-till and nitrification inhibitors. Spence Fertilizer has helped sponsor field days and other outreach events and Grote is also a member of the Miller Creek Advisory Board.


Grote was recommended by Shane Wulf, Miller Creek WQI project coordinator.




*** Reporters and Editors: Photos of Secretary Northey presenting the awards to LaCrosse Seeds, Agriland FS, New Leader, AgriDrain and Terry Grote are available upon request.



Visit CleanWaterIowa.org to learn more about voluntary, science-based practices that can be implemented on our farms and in our cities to improve water quality.  Iowans can also follow @CleanWaterIowa on twitter or “like” the page on Facebook to receive updates and other information about the ongoing Iowa water quality initiative.


December 15, 2015
15 Dec 2015

Manage Tile Drainage Water

Underground water control can regulate water levels, direct water into the soilor filter nitrates. 


Nitrate management in tile water is a big reason why this water control structure has slowly gained a foothold in the Corn Belt, but its potential for providing timely water to corn and soybeans may spell the future for this underground tile water management tool. Some see the day when hundreds of thousands of acres of tile-drained land will use smart drainage systems to supply water as well as drain it away. Learn more here
Water Control

Conservationist Bruce Voigts explains how stop logs slide down
into a water control structure to control water levels in a saturated
buffer in north central Iowa. Solar powered measuring equipment
documents water flow and weather conditions.

December 11, 2015
11 Dec 2015

Drainage Gains In Water Management

Drainage Gains In Water Management
Original source: Crop Life

Of the many practices available to stem nutrient losses, drainage water management is getting more attention. What’s ahead here? Charlie Schafer, president of Agri Drain Corp., Adair, IA, says site-specific structural practices — using an engineered watershed-scale systems approach — will manage and treat water that starts at the top of the slope where rainwater falls.WQ 1

In fact, automatically managed, swarm intelligence-based operating systems are being designed with built-in forecasting that drain, hold, and add water back into systems. Schafer says they offer quantifiable reductions that will provide the greatest benefit and lowest cost to producers and downstream communities.

But beyond drainage systems, he says growers can treat and reduce nutrient concentrations by installing edge-of-field practices such as bioreactors, saturated buffers, and nitrogen treatment wetlands. These options give producers the ability to manage water levels, maximize yields and reduce nutrients leaving their fields.

Then too, he adds, NRCS practices such as tile outlet terraces, improved grass waterways, ponds, water, and sediment control basins and wetlands will reduce nutrient loss and improve water quality. The array of choices is encouraging.

Ultimately, “if we utilize available practices, technology and water quality trading, there will be no need for regulations,” Schafer says.

Traditional funding sources, including USDA, will continue to support conservation practices. “But we need a game changer to get us to where we need to be, in an acceptable amount of time, due to increased weather variability and a growing world population,” he believes. “When we can manage, store, treat, and reuse water on-farm, the producer and downstream communities will benefit and will share in the associated costs through a market-based approach.”

December 8, 2015
08 Dec 2015

Innovations in Water Management to Improve Crop Productivity and Water Quality

Several key innovations are coming on line to dramatically improve both agricultural productivity and water quality by management of water flowing through tile lines. The first of these is Drainage Water Management where water is held in the field during the dry periods of the growing season and during fallow periods to improve productivity, and water quality. The second is Sub-Irrigation, which uses the same subsurface tile lines used for drainage to irrigate crops. These two systems can dramatically improve farm economic viability and cost-effectively reduce nutrient loss to waterways.

DWM refers to controlling the flow of water discharged from tile lines to improve environmental performance and agricultural production. Without controls, tile lines drain water and associated materials from fields around the clock year round. However, drainage typically is only needed during
part of the year, and closing off drainage during most of the year will significantly reduce nutrient loss and improve yields.

Read more here……Innovations in Water




November 19, 2015
19 Nov 2015

USDA Announces $350 Million Available to Help States, Private Partners Protect and Restore Grasslands, Wetlands, and Working Lands


NRCS is making $350 million in financial and technical assistance available to help landowners protect and restore key farmlands, grasslands and wetlands across the nation. The funding is provided through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), which was created in the 2014 Farm Bill to protect critical wetlands and encourage landowners to keep lands in farming and ranching.Application due dates vary by state.  for more info click on the link below…..

Agricultural Conservation Easement Program

November 2, 2015
02 Nov 2015

Partnership addresses water quality

A group of public and private entities has come together to provide another avenue for farmers to address water-quality issues in Wisconsin. Through an effort led by Sand County Foundation, a Fond du Lac County landowner has obtained the first approved conservation-activity plan to apply drainage water management on his farm. ……Read more

Guided by lasers and global-positioning-system equipment, drain plows can lay drainage tile with great precision.

September 21, 2015
21 Sep 2015

Iowa League of Cities Receives Conservation Innovation Grant

News release  


Des Moines, Iowa 50309500 SW 7th Street, Suite 101,
(515) 244-7282

Contact: Dustin Miller  (515) 883-0925

September 15, 2015

For Immediate Release


Iowa League of Cities Receives Conservation Innovation Grant to Develop Water Quality Offset Program


United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced today that the Iowa League of Cities will be one of the 2015 recipients of a Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) that is administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The League will receive a CIG grant totaling over $700,000 over 3 years to fund the development of a Water Quality Offset Program in Iowa under the framework outlined in the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy. The ultimate goal of an offset program is to generate the same or increased nutrient reduction at a reduced cost to municipalities and their ratepayers. The CIG program looks for innovative approaches toward increasing usage and effectiveness of conservation practices, and has funded other market based conservation efforts in the past.


The grant funds will leverage the ongoing watershed projects in the cities of Dubuque and Storm Lake who have utilized state programs to develop projects upstream from their communities. These cities have collaborated within their watersheds through the State Revolving Fund’s Sponsored Project Program and an Urban Water Quality Initiative award from the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship to develop projects with environmental benefits that have value to their citizens. These cities are holistically looking at their environmental impact to understand if this work can have a reduction of costs benefit to their citizens.


Upon the announcement, General Counsel for the Iowa League of Cities, Dustin Miller stated “We hope this grant acts as a catalyst to accelerate the development of a water quality offset system. Such a system in Iowa will not be the whole solution to water quality in the state, but what we have seen in other states is that, done the right way, such a flexible system can achieve the same or even greater environmental impact in a watershed at a reduced cost to ratepayers.”


The application was a partnership between the two cities, proven experts in the field environmental science, engineering firm Kieser & Associates and law firm Troutman Sanders with the goal of developing innovative, practical solutions that are right for Iowa. Combined these two groups have created over 25 different credit trading systems across the country.


As part of the grant, the League has created a Technical Advisory Committee that is made up of a diverse group of stakeholders from agriculture, environment, city, and industry. Members of the group will being meeting regularly to tackle questions around this framework development to come up with some sort of consensus about how a system should be structured in Iowa.


The announcement comes the same week that the EPA and USDA are hosting a National Workshop on Water Quality Markets in Lincoln, NE featuring regional water quality trading forums, conservation finance opportunities and recent developments in economics, science & technology. Experts in water quality markets from across the country have come together to discuss trends across the country and both agencies have asked the Iowa League of Cities to participate on panels related to water quality market development in the Mississippi River Basin and the impact of the CIG funding to spur this development.



The Iowa League of Cities is the oldest, continuously operating municipal league in the country. Founded in 1898, the League is a not-for-profit organization that serves at the unified voice for cities, providing advocacy, training and guidance to the cities of Iowa. See iowaleague.org for more information.


Kieser & Associates is a unique team of scientists, engineers and economists who find creative solutions for environmental problems. K&A is nationally recognized for their years of dedicated efforts to develop and institutionalize water quality trading in the United States and for working with federal and state agencies, municipalities, industry, agricultural organizations, mitigation bankers, and non-profits to develop frameworks and pilot trades for environmental markets around the world. See kieser-associates.com for more information.


Troutman Sanders LLP is an international law firm with more than 600 lawyers and offices located throughout North America and Asia. Founded in 1897, the firm’s lawyers provide counsel and advice in practically every aspect of civil and commercial law related to the firm’s core practice areas: Corporate, Energy and Industry Regulation, Environmental and Natural Resources, Finance, Litigation and Real Estate. Firm clients range from multinational corporations to individual entrepreneurs, federal and state agencies to foreign governments, and non-profit organizations to businesses representing virtually every sector and industry. See troutmansanders.com for more information.

September 2, 2015
02 Sep 2015

Voluntary Conservation Works Across Party Lines

Check out this article by Bruce Knight and ESE’s President Dave White

During the nine years we served under the Bush and Obama administrations, we both worked with landowners to provide cost-share assistance to install effective conservation measures to welcome wildlife. And we cooperated with the Fish and Wildlife Service to assure farmers and ranchers that the steps they took would be sufficient to meet current and future requirements to protect at-risk or endangered species….read more