Saturated Buffer Another Tool For Farmers to Protect Groundwater

A saturated buffer system was demonstrated near Perry as a means of keeping crop nutrients out of the water supply. (Roger Riley WHO-HD)

A saturated buffer system was demonstrated near Perry as a means of keeping crop nutrients out of the water supply. (Roger Riley WHO-HD)

PERRY, Iowa- The Iowa Soybean Association Friday demonstrated another method Iowa farmers can use to help keep nutrients used for crop production, from getting into ground water.

The demonstration was held on the Tom Vincent farm southwest of Perry. He is constructing something called a Saturated Buffer. That is like a strip of grass which separates the drainage ditch from the crops. A small box acts as a valve.  An underground system of tubes gathers the water into the valve. This gives some control over how much water can leave the field at any given time.

The water is drained into the grass strip where it is filtered by organic material before going down stream. Last spring Iowa Soybean Association demonstrated a bioreactor system.

“Bioreactors work very well to remove nitrogen,” said Keegan Kult, of the Iowa Soybean Association. “They use the wood chips, to provide that carbon source ( for filter) instead of here we were using the organic matter that’s already in the soil.”

Tom Vincent who farms the land wanted to install a bioreactor on his 80 corn plot, but after consulting with the Iowa Soybean Association, he found it would be better to install the Saturated Buffer system. It cost around $13,000 for the 80 acres drainage system.

“This entire 80 going to be treated, will be treated by the structures,” said Vincent. “Essentially all the water, all the drainage it comes off of this will be treated by the saturated buffer strips, I think that’s an efficient very effective way to achieve our goal here.”

Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey applauded the Iowa Soybean Association for their leadership in reducing nutrients from the soil into the water. He said this ground water quality is a big issue for Midwest Agriculture Department leaders, they will meet the next month to discuss this issue.

“You know practice like saturated buffer is a practice, was essentially discovered and perfected within Iowa, “ said Northey. “We need to be able to create more opportunities for resources toward this effort.”