Saturated Buffer, Water Quality and Drone Field Day

Thursday, September 19, 2019 - 5:00pm to 7:00pm

AMES, Iowa — Iowa Learning Farms, along with Scott County Soil and Water Conservation District and Iowa Natural Resource Conservation Service, will host a saturated buffer, water quality and drone field day Thursday, Sept. 19 from 5 -7 p.m. at the Paustian Family Farm, rural Walcott. The event is free,open to families and includes a complimentary meal.

In 2008, Mike Paustian returned to the family’s heritage farm, which encompasses nearly 1,400 acres and a 1,200 sow farrow-to-finish hog operation. For the past five years, the Paustian family has incorporated soybeans into their rotation, and no-till and minimum tillage their crop acres. In addition to reducing tillage, the Paustians have begun adding cover crops to hold soil in place, as well as scavenge nutrients from the soil and fall applied manure. Their goal is to build long term soil health and organic matter in their fields and improve water quality. They have used primarily cereal rye and oats on about 600 acres for over seven years.

Taking the next step to reduce nitrate loss from their farm, the Paustians installed a saturated buffer just north of their home in the summer of 2018. With drone technology, they are monitoring the performance of their farm and conservation practices.

Field day attendees will have the opportunity to hear from Paustian and ask questions about the family’s experiences with the saturated buffer, drone technology, cover crops and other practices.

The new Iowa Learning Farms Conservation Station On The Edge, with both a saturated buffer and bioreactor model, will show how these edge-of-field practices can reduce nitrate losses to Iowa waterways. Keith Schilling, state geologist and research scientist with Iowa Geological Survey, will be sharing the water quality results from the first year of monitoring on the saturated buffer. Cassie Druhl will highlight the Partners of Scott County Water Quality Approach and offer opportunities to get involved.

The field day will begin at the saturated buffer site located at 22480 70th Avenue, Walcott. From I-80 take exit 284 toward Walcott/Plain View. Go north on N Plainview Road past the I-80 truck stop for 1.6 miles. Head east on 230th Street for one mile. Turn right on 70th Avenue and travel south for 0.5 miles. Look for field day signs directing you to the site. In case of rain, the field day will be held at 6520 215th Street, Walcott.

The workshop is free and open to the entire family, but reservations are suggested to ensure adequate space and food. For reasonable accommodations and to RSVP please contact Justin Bisinger at 563-391-1403, ext. 3, or  

Iowa Learning Farms field days and workshops are supported by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. For more information about Iowa Learning Farms, visit

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, Iowa Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Iowa Department of Natural Resources (USEPA section 319).
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