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News Service

News Service:

Annette Hacker, manager, (515) 294-3720

Office: (515) 294-4777

Agriculture, veterinary medicine and natural resources news from Iowa State University

July 2004

Compost controls erosion at highway construction sites

Using compost at road construction sites can be an effective tool to reduce storm water runoff and soil erosion. That's the conclusion of a three-year study conducted by Iowa State University. The project was designed to compare roadway embankments blanketed with compost to slopes where conventional erosion control practices were applied. Much of the current thinking about compost applications presumes the benefits occur primarily as the result of increased soil organic matter content and improved vegetative growth. But Iowa State researchers found the compost blankets provided immediate runoff and erosion control, providing excellent infiltration and absorption capacity, with or without vegetation. Because of this, compost blankets appear to have great potential to control runoff and erosion on construction sites, even during seasons when vegetation doesn't grow well (i.e. late fall through early spring). The American Society of Agricultural Engineers recently published two peer-reviewed journal articles that report the results of this work. Copies are available. Photographs and further details about the research are on the Web at The research was funded by the Iowa Department of Transportation and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Contact Tom Glanville, agricultural and biosystems engineering, (515) 294-0463; or Susan Thompson, College of Agriculture Communications, (515) 294-0705.

Bringing customers back to the farm

Consumers are becoming more interested in the origin of the foods they eat and devote more of their expendable income on the purchase of value-added foods and unique experiences. At the same time, interest in the concept of agritourism has grown as a possible opportunity for farmers to market not only their products but also their bucolic way of life. Writing in the summer 2004 issue of the Iowa Ag Review newsletter, Roxanne Clemens, managing director of ISU's Midwest Agribusiness Trade Research and Information Center, cites the case of farmers in the Veneto region of Italy, where she recently studied agritourism and other research topics. "Over the past five years, agritourism in Italy has increased by 25 percent, mostly because of the increase in the number of farms offering overnight accommodations." In Italy, as in other countries of the European Union, farmers have incentives to produce high-value food products and to encourage customers to visit their farms to experience rural activities, social customs and locally grown items. In the EU, this kind of agritourism is highly regulated and functions mostly as a secondary activity to support main farming operations. Clemens suggests that the United States would need greater policy incentives to nurture similar agritourism ventures on U.S. farms. The article, "Keeping Farmers on the Land: Agritourism in the European Union," is available online at

Iowa native wine production continues to increase

While most domestic wine comes from California, small vineyards miles from Napa Valley are growing and thriving in the United States. In Iowa, wine production from native wineries is increasing, says Craig Tordsen, ISU Extension value-added agriculture specialist. In an analysis of data collected from the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division, Tordsen and the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center (AgMRC) at Iowa State found significant increases in the number of wineries and the amount of wine produced in the span of three years. In July 2001, 13 Iowa wineries produced 51,500 gallons of wine. In May 2004, 22 of the 28 licensed wineries produced nearly 78,000 gallons of wine during the previous 11 months, with sales of 57,468 gallons. However, more than 225 commercial vineyards have been established in the last four years, said ISU Extension viticulture specialist Mike White, who links the industry growth in Iowa to increased agritourism. "Growing pains are inevitable. Both attrition and expansion of individual vineyards will occur as this industry matures," said White. He recommends that those considering a vineyard or a winery carefully identify their market before starting or expanding. Information on the wine industry and specifically Midwestern wine can be found at, or by calling (866) 277-5567. AgMRC also has a database of consultants to assist producers or groups with business plans and feasibility studies. Additional information is available on the ISU viticulture Web site, AgMRC is a national center focused on collecting and interpreting information and creating new research to support value-added agricultural activities. It is housed at Iowa State University. Contact Tordsen, (515) 294-1938; White, (515) 961-6237; Mary Holz-Clause, AgMRC co-director, (515) 294-0648; or Christa Hartsook, AgMRC communications, (515) 294-4430.


"Growing pains are inevitable. Both attrition and expansion of individual vineyards will occur as this industry matures"

-- Mike White