Guest Article: The Iowa Nutrient Research and Education Council (INREC)

One of the challenges of reducing nutrients in Iowa waterways is the massive scale of agriculture in Iowa. There are 23 million row crop acres in Iowa, and 88,000 farms. It takes a huge network of businesses to support the farms both on the input side and to handle the production output. To really understand the best way to move forward with Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy, it helps to look at agriculture not as individual plots of land, but as a system.

The Iowa Nutrient Research and Education Council (INREC) was formed in 2014 with a targeted mission that helps to address the system as a whole. By forming the only formal organization in Iowa that joins together agricultural businesses, crop advisors, farm and commodity organizations, and the crop production industry to address nutrient issues across the production system, INREC leverages the engagement of the entire industry.

The INREC mission is targeted where the organization is best positioned to have the greatest impact. In a nutshell, the mission is Environmental Progress Measurement, New Practice/Product Validation, and Enhancing the Environmental Impact of Crop Advisers.  

Progress Measurement
Most efforts to quantify implementation are limited by the available data. But, a great storehouse of data exists in the records of agricultural retailers and crop advisors. That data, when anonymized and aggregated, allows for nutrient load reductions to be calculated based on practice performance numbers from the ISU Science Assessment for the NRS.

New Practices
As technology and science continue to provide more resources and information, this will lead to new products, cropping practices, and crop services that benefit water quality. But it’s important to validate the effect on water quality for two reasons. First, to be sure a new product or practice actually works, and second, to establish the effectiveness of these new options. INREC will help facilitate neutral-science based testing so new technologies which qualify can be added to the list of options to meet NRS goals.

Enhancing Iowa’s Change Agents
The existing roles of Iowa’s ag retailers, 1300 certified crop advisors, and estimated 5000 total ag advisors who essentially “meet with every farmer, concerning every field, every year” will be enhanced by providing increased outreach and knowledge transfer to help these professionals with advising farmer decisions regarding environmental technologies and practices.

Through these combined efforts, INREC will serve to demonstrate progress, foster innovation of new technologies, and enhance CCA and Ag Retailer roles as “change agents” working with Iowa farmers to achieve environmental goals.  

About the Iowa Nutrient Research and Education Council
INREC is a private, nonprofit organization whose board of direc­tors includes broad representation across the agricultural industry. Board of Directors seats include: Agribusiness Association of Iowa, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, Soy­bean Producers, Corn Producers, Livestock Industry, Certified Crop Advisors, Fertilizer Manufacturers/Wholesalers, Fer­tilizer Retailers, and Crop Produc­tion Companies. Ex-officio seats include Iowa State University and the Iowa Department of Agricul­ture and Land Stewardship