Conservation Rising to New Heights

Rachel Lenz found her senior capstone project in agricultural systems technology to be a perfect fit for her passion and skill set.

Lenz and her team are creating a land management plan for the Des Moines International Airport to identify which conservation practices are best suited to their 800 acres of land.

Her team has designed a management plan to decrease erosion, reduce nutrient loss and control bird populations. The plan includes strip cropping the farmable acres by planting strips of row crops next to strips of the perennial alfalfa.

Lenz says strip cropping will help reduce erosion and nutrient loss in the soil. Her team also will initiate a required tillage practice for the strips planted in row crops. This tillage practice will bury the seed left on the soil after harvest and help diminish the bird populations feeding on the seed. She is working with Amy Kaleita, associate professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering, and draws on her academic expertise and first-hand knowledge of farm activities to make recommendations.

Lenz and her team will present the plan to airport officials in December and expect the plan to be implemented during the 2017 growing season.

Lenz keeps busy between classes working on her family farm in Vail, Iowa, participating in the Agricultural Systems Technology (AST) Club and Block and Bridle. She’s managed to juggle all these activities and graduate in three and a half years. The senior in AST with a minor in agronomy is still exploring opportunities following graduation in December.

“I really enjoyed learning about the impact of runoff and erosion rates in my soil and water conservation classes,” says Lenz. “People need to step up and make a difference in conserving soil and water. I hope I can make an impact.”

Jenny Macken, an academic adviser in AST who advises Lenz, says Lenz stands out for her academic success and positive attitude.

“Rachel is extremely intelligent. She earned a spot on the dean’s list for multiple semesters and received the Iowa State University Academic Recognition Award. She also finds time to remain very active on campus,” says Macken. “Rachel is the only woman I’ve advised during her entire college experience. Most women transfer into our program, so I only get to work with them for a couple years. Whenever I see her, she is always smiling.”

Lenz is the only woman in her AST graduating class and one of 11 in the AST major. Lenz says the experience has pre- pared her for entering the working world.

“I’m entering a field that employs mostly men, and I’m pretty used to that.

It makes the idea of being the only woman less intimating and has prepared me for what I may encounter in my work place,” says Lenz.