Improving Midwestern Agriculture’s Environmental, Social, and Economic Footprint with Prairie Strips

Prairie Strip

Improving Midwestern Agriculture's Environmental, Social, and Economic Footprint with Prairie Strips


Funding Source(s)


Prairie strips are strategically placed native prairie plantings in crop fields that contribute to climate resilience and soil health, protect water quality, and enhance biodiversity. In fall 2003, Iowa State University, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service developed the Science-based Trials of Rowcrops Integrated with Prairie Strips (aka STRIPS) at the Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge in Iowa. This research team documented (

  • 44% reduction in water runoff
  • 95% reduction in soil loss
  • 90% reduction in P runoff
  • 84% reduction in N runoff
  • No difference in per acre corn and soybean yields
  • No difference in weed abundance
  • Reduced emissions of heat-trapping gases, especially nitrous oxide
  • Potentially improved beneficial insects and wildlife

Today, this project has launched into a USDA-FSA funded effort for conservation through the Clear Lakes, Estuaries, and Rivers (CLEAR) Initiative (or Conservation Program-43). In early 2021, Iowa State University researchers received funding to expand the footprint of prairie strips on farms across the US Midwest by formalizing a regional partnership and expanding programming to serve farmers, farmland owners, and farm advisers. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the Applied Wildlife Ecology and Spatial Movement (AWESM) lab partnered with Iowa State for the next 3 years to implement prairie strips on University of Nebraska-Lincoln Research and Extension Centers across the state of Nebraska. These sites will be used for research and extension activities focused on prairie strip establishment in rowcrop fields. We will also be working with local farmers to develop testimonials about the value of prairie strips in their rowcrop production system.

To Learn More About the STRIPS project, see:

Photos by Omar de Kok-Mercado/STRIPS