MidWestOne presents grant to Prairies for Agriculture project at Central College

Front row (from left to right): Central students Regan Jamieson, Olivia Schouten, Rhiley Huntington. Back row: Margaret Ratcliff; Dave Sutphen; Russ Benedict; Brian Hauser, vice president, CML/AG lender at MidwestOne; Paul Jones, vice president, CML/AG lender at MidwestOne.

PELLA — The MidWestOne Foundation presented the first portion of a $10,000 grant to Dr. Russ Benedict, associate professor of biology at Central College, on Aug. 30 at the college’s Carlson-Kuyper Field Station. The award, to be received in four equal payments over four years, provides funding for the Prairies for Agriculture project. Joining Benedict in accepting the grant were Dave Sutphen, vice president of advancement, and Central students working on the project.

Run by Benedict, the Prairies for Agriculture project aims to reintroduce native prairie plants to Iowa to help the environment and benefit the state’s farmers. By planting native species on unfarmable land — like hillsides and streams — farmers can slow down soil erosion while attracting pollinators and other beneficial insects.

In addition, prairie grasses can be harvested by farmers and used as biofuel. Benedict believes the fuel could be carbon negative, meaning the grasses will store more carbon in the soil than they produce when burned as fuel.

By planting nearly 400 plots on a 17-acre site at the field station, Benedict and his students aim to find the mixture of prairie species that will be most beneficial to farmers.

“We’re in the stage right now where funding has been a challenge for us, so something like this is huge,” Benedict said about the grant’s impact.

“The MidWestOne Bank Foundation is paving the way for a brighter tomorrow through financial support of the arts, education, wellness, recreation and civic services,” said Margaret Ratcliff, second vice president and retail managing officer at MidWestOne. “The foundation supports not-for-profit groups, institutions, schools and other organizations and projects that enhance the cultural well-being of the communities MidWestOne Bank serves. The Foundation predominately supports capital and building campaigns that will benefit the greater good for generations to come.”

For more information on the Prairies for Agriculture project, read the story at http://civitas.central.edu/2011/08/little-college-on-the-prairie/

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