Extension Publications

5 Ways to Help the Monarchs
The monarch butterfly population in North America has declined by 80% during the past 20 years. This publication includes five ways to help this iconic insect survive and thrive across Iowa and the Midwest.
Applying Woodchip Bioreactors for Improved Water Quality
In the quest to manage nitrate levels in Iowa’s waters, researchers are developing new ways to keep both soil and water healthy. The use of woodchip bioreactors is just one tool Iowa State University Extension and Outreach specialist recommend to help manage nitrates levels.
Aquatic Environments - Iowa's Nature Series
From the ephemeral pool of a prairie pothole to the giant pools of the mighty Mississippi, Iowa's lands are defined by their diverse, and critically important aquatic ecosystems. This article takes a deep dive into the ecology and intrigue of these systems found across the state and discusses the challenges they face and the promises of conservation actions taken there.
Aquatic Plant Management -- Managing Iowa Fisheries
Discover biological, chemical and integrated management methods to control aquatic weeds.
Attracting Birds to Your Yard
Learn how to design a backyard oasis for birds by providing essential habitat elements including food, shelter, and water. This publication discusses key considerations for incorporating bird habitat needs into landscape designs by laying out plants that provide shelter or food in a way that mimics the natural habitats of birds. The publication also discusses bird feeding and how to safely attract more birds into view in the backyard by providing the right types of food throughout the year. This publication updates PM 1351D.
Buffer Strip Design, Establishment and Maintenance -- Stewards of Our Streams
This publication discusses how to design, plant, and maintain a multi-species buffer strip, which is an important part of river ecosystems.
Building Quality Ponds -- Managing Iowa Fisheries
A quality pond stores the cleanest water possible. This publication describes suitable water sources and the design and maintenance of water impoundments.
Calculation and Conversions for Fisheries -- Managing Iowa Fisheries
Includes information to calculate surface areas, depth, and water volume as well as various useful conversions.
Choosing an Arborist
Tree work should be performed only by a properly trained and equipped arborist. Considerations in choosing an arborist include certification, insurance, references, contracts, etc.
Chronic Wasting Disease in Deer
Chronic wasting disease, or CWD, is a neurological disease infecting wild white-tailed deer in Iowa and throughout North America. This article reviews the most relevant and up-to-date scientific information about the disease and provides recommendations for addressing this emerging challenge in Iowa. Learn more about CWD from this video:
Common Problems of Ash Trees
Many ash tree problems can be mistaken for emerald ash borer infestation. Before removal or needlessly treating with pesticides, use this diagnostic guide to distinguish emerald ash borer injury from other common problems of ash.
Community Tree Planting and Care Guide
Trees provide many benefits to communities such as improved air quality, wildlife habitat and reduced energy consumption during the summer and winter. This publication discusses proper techniques for selecting, planting and caring for trees.
Conifer Species for Iowa -- Community Trees
With their ever-present foliage, conifers make excellent screens, windbreaks, and hedges and provide year-round visual interest. The included list of recommended conifers is a guide for homeowners and landscape professionals.
Conservation Practices for Landlords
There is growing concern over the possible impact of rented land on soil conservation. Concerns regarding conservation practices are not new; however, the recent increase in concerns has come about for several reasons. More than half of Iowa’s farmland is rented and operated by someone other than the owner. In addition, landowners are aging and therefore are less likely to be actively engaged in farming. The general assumption people have is if a farmer does not own the land they farm, they are less likely to have an incentive to use conservation practices.
Conservation Practices in Lease Agreements
The purpose of this lease supplement is to encourage cooperation between tenants and landlords to obtain and maintain needed conservation practices on a rented farm. Rent charges should reflect cost and risk incurred by farming practices. Conservation practices and improvements will not be made unless agreed to in advance and the tenant has the necessary machinery and management ability.
Considerations for Prescribed Burning: Ignition Techniques
When initiating a prescribed fire, it is important to determine the type of ignition pattern, or combination of patterns prior to the burn. Making this determination depends on several factors: burning objectives, fuel characteristics, pre- and post-burn weather, smoke management, manpower and equipment availability, and adjacent fuels.
Considerations for Prescribed Burning: Timing a Prescribed Burn
Prescribed fire is a tool utilized under very specific and predetermined conditions to manipulate the environment and achieve a desired outcome. Fires helped to control unwanted pests, and to increase safety around the living areas by increasing the visibility. Learning from the past, land stewards now use prescribed fire in forests to manage vegetation, improve wildlife habitat, and control pest problems.
Considerations for Prescribed Burning: Tools & Safety Gear
Prescribed fire is one of a suite of tools used to manage landscapes to achieve specific management goals. Safety in using prescribed fire is of utmost importance. To conduct a safe and effective prescribed fire requires not only a burn plan and clear lines of communication, but also the right equipment and a crew who know how to safely use that equipment and employ the correct firing techniques.
Consulting Arborists Provide Service in Iowa
Arborists specialize in the management and care of individual trees. This publication provides a list of arborist vendors certified by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA), along with their contact information.
Developing a Prescribed Fire Burn Plan: Elements & Considerations
Burn plans are a critical component of any prescribed burn. The purpose of a burn plan is to provide a description of the burn area, target weather conditions, hazards that may be encountered, personnel needs and safety and contacts to make prior to burning. This publication includes a burn plan template and explains the importance and purpose of each section of the template.
Emerald Ash Borer Management Options
Homeowners and commercial pesticide applicators will find control measures to consider in preventing and treating the infestation of ash trees by the emerald ash borer. Includes product recommendations and evaluation of insecticide effectiveness.
Enhancing Monarch Butterfly Conservation in Iowa
While the monarch butterfly is perhaps the most recognizable and iconic insect in North America, their population has declined 80% over the past two decades. This publication discusses a project undertaken by extension and research staff at Iowa State University to demonstrate conservation practices for incorporating monarch breeding habitat across the state of Iowa.
Establishing a Community Tree Program - Community Trees
This publication is intended to help cities and towns develop and administer a community tree program. Because communities are unique, the program should be tailored specifically for each community.
Establishing and Managing Pollinator Habitat on Saturated Riparian Buffers
Conservation practices for water quality and pollinator habitat can be complementary - using some of the same land and resources can multiply ecological benefits for water and wildlife. This publication discusses the ways saturated riparian buffers can be used for planting pollinator habitat. It provides information on site selection, preparation and establishment, management and seed mixes.
Farm Ponds -- Managing Iowa Fisheries
Ponds are, at times, both complex and simple ecosystems. Pond complexity depends on the food webs involving many types of organisms. This publication addresses concerns of landowners who wish to continue to enjoy their farm ponds.
Fire in Grazing Management: Patch-Burn Grazing
Fire is a critical natural process necessary for maintaining ecosystems around the world, providing a means for renewal, regrowth and maintenance of habitats. In grassland and savanna ecosystems, fire plays an important role by limiting encroachment of wood species and cycling nutrients; however, in nearly all grassland and savanna habitats fire was not the only process at work. Historically, fire was closely coupled with grazing – namely by large mammals.
Floodplain Connectivity
Floodplains enhance water quality and reduce downstream flooding.
Forests - Iowa's Nature Series
The forests of a prairie state like Iowa are unique refugia of biological diversity and important ecological and economical function. This article explores Iowa's forest ecosystems and the critical roles they play in our environment, economy, and quality of life.
Gardening for Butterflies and Pollinators
A butterfly garden can be created as simply as planting a bunch of butterfly-favorite plants in a sunny corner of your yard. Learn about effective butterfly garden characteristics and which host and nectar plants are best for different butterflies.
Influential Voices - Iowa's Nature Series
For as long as the tallgrass prairie blooms have blown in the breeze and the muddy Missouri flowed past its western border, the land we call Iowa has been stewarded and cared for by people. From the diversity of Native cultures that have called this land home to the 20th century advocates who fought for its protection and care amid unprecedented exploitation, thousands of influential voices have fought to protect this land and its diversity.
Intensive Aquaculture Systems -- Managing Iowa Fisheries
Interest in aquaculture (fish farming) is increasing. This brochure provides potential aquaculturists with information to help them objectively study the feasibility of adding intensive aquaculture to their farming enterprises.
Invertebrates - Iowa's Nature Series
Asked to picture Iowa's wildlife diversity and many people may think first of vertebrates, rather than the invertebrates who comprise the vast majority of diversity found among the living animals of Iowa's lands and waters! This article features the stories of a few of the thousands of insects, spiders, crustaceans, butterflies, moths, worms, snails, mussels, and leeches found in Iowa, everywhere from our border rivers to our homes.
Iowa Bats
Bats are an important part of Iowa's ecosystem. This infographic provides a look at the different bat species that can be found in Iowa, along with information on their diet, habitat and threats to their survival. Management practices that can preserve bat habitat are also discussed.
Iowa's Forest Birds
Iowa’s forests play host to a spectacular diversity of birds throughout the year. This article explores this diversity, describing how birds feed, nest, and move within and among many different types of forests found in Iowa. The management of forest habitats for birds is explored with recommendations for making the most of any forest parcel for birds and the people that enjoy them.
Landforms and Geology - Iowa's Nature Series
From ocean-front property to spruce forest to today's rich organic prairie soils, Iowa's geological past is a fascinating story that can be told through careful inspection of the land beneath our feet. This article explores the long-view history of Iowa's landscapes and explains how the hills and valleys we call home were formed over millennia.
Mammals of Iowa Field Guide
Iowa has a rich diversity of mammals, ranging in form and function from the one third-of-an-ounce western harvest mouse which summits blades of grass to eat seeds in Iowa’s prairies to the over 1,000 pound bison whose diet shapes the community of grasses on which it grazes. Our fellow mammals enrich the lives of Iowans from city lots to rural farmsteads. Few sights rival that of a flight of bats at dusk on a warm summer evening, the passing flash of a gray fox in the headlights on a night drive, or the beauty of a herd of snow-covered white-tailed deer on a winter day.
Managing Storm-Damaged Trees - Sustainable Urban Landscapes
Here are pruning tips for do-it-yourselfers or hiring hints if you bring in a professional.
Monarch Seed Mix High Diversity
This publication contains a high diversity seed mix developed by the Iowa State University Monarch Research Team for research purposes. All species are perennials native to Iowa.
Northern Bobwhites in Iowa
Northern bobwhites, known simply as “quail” to many, are a charismatic bird that dwells on the margins of diverse farms, fields, and forests of southern Iowa. This article describes the basic needs and behaviors of the bobwhite and offers landowners and managers pointers on how to help ensure the bird continues to thrive in rural Iowa.
Oak Wilt - Identification and Management - Sustainable Urban Landscapes
Oak wilt, the most damaging disease of oak trees in lowa, has killed many forest and landscape oaks in the eastern and central United States. Oak wilt has not devastated its host species, however, mainly because its spread from diseased to healthy trees has been relatively slow and sporadic. Nevertheless, local outbreaks of oak wilt can kill or injure many trees. The management practices described in this publication can help minimize the risk of losing oaks to this disease.
Plants - Iowa's Nature Series
From the bur oak tree towering over the savanna to the humble bladderwort, floating untethered in the water of wetlands, Iowa's plants and plant-like organisms are fascinatingly diverse. This article explores that diversity, describing the classification Iowa's plants, the varied places they occur, and the remarkable adaptations they have to life in Iowa.
Power Lines and Trees -- Community Trees
To assure safe and reliable electric service, trimming or removing trees near power lines is sometimes necessary. Included are descriptions of proper tree pruning methods to discuss with a qualified arborist.
Prairies - Iowa's Nature Series
Iowa, like no other state in the U.S., is defined by its tallgrass prairies. This article takes a deep dive into those prairie ecosystems, learning about the cast of plants, animals, and people dependent on them and how people today are working to manage and protect this critical ecosystem.
Properties and Uses of Iowa Hardwoods
Using native hardwoods can be cost-effective for Iowa landowners. Learn more about the uses and characteristics of Iowa hardwoods.
Reducing Nutrient Loss: Science Shows What Works
Iowa has been working for decades to protect and improve water quality through best scientific management, land use, and edge-of-field practices to reduce nutrient loss from farmland. The Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy is a science and technology-based framework to assess and reduce nutrients to Iowa waters and the Gulf of Mexico.
Safe Mushroom Foraging
This field guide provides information on mushrooms found throughout Iowa. It provides foragers guidance on the time of year each mushroom is available, its key characteristics, habitat and look-alike mushrooms. There is also information on common mushroom myths and best practices for searching for them in the wild. Full-color photographs also help hunters identify mushrooms they come across.
Shade Trees for Iowa - Ash Alternatives
This publication lists several shade tree selections for the Iowa landscape. It lists trees that might serve as replacements for the ash tree, which is susceptible to the emerald ash borer.
Small-stature Trees for Iowa - Ash Alternatives
This publication lists several small-stature tree selections suitable for the Iowa landscape. These trees listed serve as suitable replacements for ash trees, which are susceptible to the emerald ash borer.
Smoke Management for Prescribed Burning: What to Consider
Managing smoke produced by prescribed fires has, in recent years, become a critical consideration when planning a prescribed fire event. In some situations, planning for smoke management may be more complicated than planning for the prescribed fire itself. Considerations such as human and animal health and safety, air pollution, and reduced visibility must be taken into careful account when planning even a small, routine prescribed burn.
Soils - Iowa's Nature Series
It is widely accepted that Iowa's soils are some of the richest and most productive in the world. But how and why? This article explores those rich soils, how they form, how scientists describe and classify them, and the conservation challenges they face.