Prairie Filter Strips

Native prairie plants can act as a sponge and slow soil runoff from rain. Research from Iowa State University shows planting dense, diverse and deep-rooted strips of prairie next to corn and soybean fields has multiple environmental benefits.

Sand County Foundation works with farmers to demonstrate how prairie filter strips work on farms of varying soil types, topography, and management.

Our prairie strip efforts began in 2017, with the implementation of six demonstration sites funded through the North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) program. With subsequent support from the United Soybean Board and Iowa State University, we advanced this work into other Midwestern states.

Our goal is to validate the capability of the practice to reduce erosion and improve water quality, while identifying benefits and potential barriers to farmer adoption. Prairie strips are now an approved practice in the federal Conservation Reserve Program.

Prairies of the past = modern conservation tool


Over the years, our team of scientists and conservation professionals has learned directly from farmers and conservationists about their views, concerns, and resources needed to apply and maintain prairie strips. Our survey of 23 attendees at the Wisconsin Land & Water annual confernece in 2019 affirmed that conservationists see soil erosion reduction and water quality improvement as the primary benefits of prairie strips, with wildlife habitat as an important secondary benefit. 

We learned that the primary perceived barriers to adoption are the loss of productive acres and the time demand for management. We also learned that the most effective way to promote the practice are in-field demonstrations and farmer-to-farmer mentoring. 

Trainings with NRCS and FSA staff in the summer of 2023 revealed that few conservation professionals had heard of prairie strips.

Bishop Aug22 2

Farming with Prairie Strips - Dick Sloan

Stoffel Farm's Prairie Strips

Hammer & Kavazanjian Farm Prairie Strips

Doudlah Farms - Prairie Strips in Organic Grains

Img 9405

BEFORE & AFTER: Sand County Foundation assisted a prairie strip planting with Ross Bishop of Washington County, Wisconsin in 2018 (above). Two years later, the prairie strip was flourishing (below).

Bishop After

Partners & Sponsors