Fishers and Farmers Partnership is working with Valley Stewardship Network (VSN) on constructing farmer-led demonstration sites in the Kickapoo Watershed, similar to the STRIPS (Science-based Trials of Rowcrops Integrated with Prairie Strips) model in Iowa. This conservation practice was developed by Iowa State University, USDA, and Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge Staff near Prairie City, Iowa. The Iowa STRIPS Team recently celebrated their 10-year anniversary of planting the first STRIPS on the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge.
STRIPS are an easily-integrated and low-cost management option that, when 10 percent of fields are planted in STRIPS, the fields are reported to: educe sediment transport by 90-95 percent; reduce phosphorous transport by 90 percent; reduce nitrogen transport by 85 percent and reduce annual surface water flow by 40 percent. This conservation practice has been shown to outperform others used to reduce sediment such as perennial grass buffers, contours and terraces. This new VSN project cost-effectively addresses the need to control streambank erosion in order to improve fish habitat as well as improve floodplain connectivity, soil health, wildlife, pollinators and biodiversity. More information about STRIPS can be found at: A Landowner’s Guide to Prairie Conservation Strips An excellent overview of the STRIPS program was featured recently on Wisconsin Public Radio and can be heard at https://www.wpr.org/node/1178701
The tallgrass prairie is a grassland ecosystem composed of a diverse assemblage of grasses, flowers and animals. The characteristic feature of the tallgrass prairie is its abundant array of grasses and flowers, with some that can grow more than 6 feet tall with dense roots that can reach more than 15 feet below the soil surface. This abundant forage sustained the large plant eating animals like buffalo and elk prior to European settlement, and the dense roots provided the rich soils that made the Midwest ideal for cultivation. The tallgrass prairie once extended north to south from Canada into Texas, and east to west from Indiana to eastern Nebraska. Much of southwest Wisconsin was historically prairie and savannah. Today in Wisconsin, less than 0.1 percent of the tallgrass prairie remains intact.
Valley Stewardship Network is currently working with Fishers and Farmers, Sand County Foundation, North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) program, The Pasture Project and the Wallace Center at Winrock International, along with local farmers and landowners, to establish prairie strips and similar prairie plantings adjacent to crop fields in the Kickapoo and surrounding watersheds. The new Fishers and Farmers Funding significantly increases the amount of prairie seed and management cost support available to local farmers in order to establish prairie conservation strips on farms. Contact John Delaney or Shelly Gradwell-Brenneman at VSN, 608-637-3615 if you are interested in participating in this project.