Lecturers encourage students to conserve Iowa landscape

Bailey Freestone

University Museums provided a lecture, “The Changing Iowa Landscape,” on Wednesday at the Brunnier Art Museum.

Mark Hanna and Amy Kaleita, both faculty of agriculture and biosystems engineering, were asked to speak about some of the factors that have contributed to the changing Iowa landscape in the last 100 years. The overall discussion for this lecture was inspired by Ellen Wagener’s pastel exhibition that is currently being displayed in Brunnier.

Kaleita spoke to the audience about soil and water changes, and conservation practices.

Since the first people settled in Iowa, the landscape has changed dramatically. Kaleita discussed how Iowa was once full of prairie lands and natural wetlands. Today, we see few natural prairies and wetlands, and the ones we do see are being protected by nature conservations. Iowa’s landscape has now been transformed into fields.

This may have been good for the settlers who have now developed into native Iowans, but at one point, this transition was not at all good for the soil.

“During the initial land use change, there was a huge increase in soil erosion,” Kaleita said. “But when technology started to increase and we started to cover up the land more, erosion rates went back down.”

Technology has really impacted the decrease in erosion as well.

Hanna spoke about the evolution of hay and forage production. He talked to the audience about some of the original farm equipment that was used to till, plant, disk, harvest and bail fields.

Before today’s technology, it took a dozen men to do a job that one man can now do alone. The equipment also took more time to get the job done and caused severed landscape problems such as erosion issues.

Before herbicides, fields were disked several times before planting crops and while the crops grew. The disking of the soil caused it to become extremely loose and disappear in the wind or rain.

Both Kaleita and Hanna talked about possible answers to our ongoing prairie, wetland and erosion problems. They suggested that we allow more marsh areas in fields to become wetlands or prairies by leading field tiles to that area instead of ditches. This could potentially solve erosion issues as well by allowing less soil to float off.

The two speakers really encouraged the audience to do its best and do its part in conserving Iowa and its beautiful landscape, while still allowing it to be the sustainable farmland we know.