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Inside Iowa’s new DWR research

April 15, 2021  By Bree Rody

Drainage water recycling (DWR) has been a hot topic among many different scientific communities, including agricultural, environmental and engineering. While the benefits of DWR have been common knowledge for some time, adoption remains minimal.

Recently, the Iowa Nutrient Research Center (INRC) and the Iowa Soybean Association paired to embark on a cost-benefit analysis of DWR. So far, research from other states shows that DWR can improve yields significantly; up to 50 percent for corn and 30 percent for soybeans. So far, senior research scientist Chris Hay said in a statement, early modeling work shows that similar results could play out in Iowa.

Additionally, he said, “The system can also benefit water quality and wildlife.”

But ROI is still one of the biggest factors in investing in DWR. In-field data from three different sites will be a part of the research project, paired with two years worth of monitoring data from a farm in Story County. Farm owner Nick Hermanson said his family’s two different DWR systems have different types of advantages – the first system, which uses subirrigation, is more expensive, but, in his words, “works great with little maintenance.” The other, more conventional “centre pivot” style system was cheaper, but takes “considerably more management.”


The project will also make use of Purdue University’s new tool, Evaluating Drainage Water Recycling Decisions (or EDWRD, pronounced “Edward”). Read more about EDWRD and Purdue’s Transforming Drainage project here.

The project was supported with funding from the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, the INRC and the USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture.

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