The Basin Alliance for the Lower Mississippi in Minnesota (BALMM) will meet Wednesday, Dec. 16, from 9 a.m. to noon at the People’s Energy Cooperative, 1775 Lake Shady Ave. South in Oronoco, Minn.
Agenda as follows:
- 9 a.m.: Soil
Microorganisms Orchestrate Nutrient Dynamics for Agricultural Production,Dr. Michael Lehman, soil
microbiologist, USDA-ARS, Brookings, SD
- 10 a.m.: Break
- 10:30 a.m.:Soil health teams in southern Minnesota, Steve Pahs, District
Manager, Rice County SWCD
- Noon: Adjourn
the leaching of nutrients from ag land to lakes and streams is a multi-front
effort. One of those fronts is almost invisible to the eye. Soil microbes play
an important role in nutrient dynamics and can even increase a plant ability to
use more nutrients like phosphorus.
the Dec. BALMM meeting, Dr. Michael Lehman, a soil
microbiologist with the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Brookings, S.D., will
present information on the complexity of soil microbial communities and the
challenges that this complexity poses. He will discuss the roles of different
soil microbes and connect their relevance to agricultural producers,
particularly nutrient dynamics.
Specific attention will be given to
arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) which are important plant symbionts that can
increase nutrient uptake, especially phosphorus, by the host plant and provide
many other benefits to producers. Lehman will share research data that illustrate
that cover cropping can increase AMF numbers and diversity, which in turn,
increase the probability of significant benefits being received by the
Lehman conducts basic and applied
research in soil microbial ecology to identify and quantify the interactions
between soil microbes and various crop and soil management strategies,
including crop residues, extended crop rotations, cover crops, and tillage.
Current research objectives include documenting and quantifying the benefits of
soil microorganisms in agricultural systems. The end goal is to promote agricultural
management practices that optimize the multiple ecosystem services provided by
Also at the Dec. 16 BALMM meeting, Steve
Pahs, district manager of the Rice County Soil and Water Conservation District,
will discuss how Rice County is promoting soil health through the development
of a soil health team. Many counties in the region are trying to get these
USDA/NRCS originated teams off the ground. The goals are to have these teams
provide grassroots leadership and guidance on soil health issues in local
communities; provide and/or receive training; and give local insight of
accomplishments with soil health practices.
After almost four years of processing 400-plus comments and
several requests for contested case hearings, the MPCA has finished revisions
to the South Metro Mississippi Total Maximum Daily (TMDL) report and submitted
it to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for final approval. The report
addresses the total suspended solids impairment in the river from St. Paul to
Lake Pepin. Photo: Plume of sediment entering the Mississippi from the Minnesota River.
During the 2012 public comment period, the agency received requests
for contested case hearings from the following entities:
Cities Stormwater Coalition / League of Minnesota Cities and several other
member cities or entities;
Minnesota River Watershed District;
Soybean Growers Assoc., Brown County Corn and Soybean Growers, and several
individual producers; and
Pepin Legacy Alliance.
After discussions and other communication with MPCA staff, the
city of Minneapolis, the Minnesota Cities Stormwater Coalition / League of
Minnesota Cities (and most of the member cities / entities) and the Lake Pepin
Legacy Alliance withdrew their hearing requests. After
much review and discussion, the MPCA denied the other hearing requests.
The revised TMDL report is
available on the South Metro
The majority of sediment in this stretch of the Mississippi
originates in the Greater Blue Earth
River and Minnesota River. The
agency is working on revisions to TMDL reports for those river systems. The
revisions address changes in water
The Clean Water Partnership (CWP) program is now accepting
applications from local governmental units interested in loan funding to lead a
nonpoint source pollution control project for protection or restoration of
Minnesota’s water bodies. A total of $11 million is available in funding. Application can be made at any time. Currently
there is no end date for application.
The Clean Water Partnership Loan Program Request for
Proposals (RFP) can be found on the MPCA
website. The application and related
information will be accepted through an email address listed in the RFP. The CWP grant program previously used the State
Wide Integrated Financial Tools (SWIFT) system as a publishing tool for grants.
It will not use SWIFT for the
continuous funding round.
The 2015 Legislature did not fund Clean Water Partnership
grants. As a result, MPCA will not offer CWP grant funding rounds in 2016 or
2017. Current CWP projects will continue until their agreement end dates, the
last of which will be June 30, 2018.
Gov. Mark Dayton,
at the annual meetings of the Minnesota Farm Bureau and the Minnesota
Farmers Union, announced his plans to convene a statewide Water Quality
Summit in February. The summit will focus public attention on the
serious challenges facing Minnesota’s water supplies – in both rural and
urban areas of the state – and continue statewide dialogue around steps
that must be taken to address those challenges.
summit will include water quality experts, farmers, legislators,
regulators, the business community, members of the public, local
leaders, and a wide variety of other stakeholders. “My
father believed – as I believe – that stewardship is a profound
responsibility of each of us. To take what we have been given – or have
acquired – and leave it in better condition for those who will inherit
from us,” Gov. Dayton said. “This is everyone’s challenge, and
his remarks to the Minnesota Farm Bureau, Gov. Dayton
elaborated on the need for a statewide Water Quality Summit, and provided some
additional information about what the summit may address. Audio of the governor's remarks can be found here. Additional details about the Governor's Water
Quality Summit will be provided in the coming weeks. Star Tribune editorial, Nov. 25, 2015: "Water quality is a worthy signature issue for Dayton."
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is requesting
comments through Jan. 26 on topics relating to the state’s proposed Nitrogen
Fertilizer Rule designed to protect groundwater. This rule will address
agronomic crops that require significant amounts of nitrogen fertilizer. These
crops include corn, small grains, edible beans, sugarbeets, and irrigated
potatoes grown in the crop rotation.
The purpose of this request for comments is to solicit
stakeholder feedback on a variety of proposed topics related to the rule. The
proposed Nitrogen Fertilizer Rule will require the regulatory provisions
discussed in the state’s blueprint for preventing or minimizing the impact of
nitrogen fertilizer on groundwater, called the Nitrogen
Fertilizer Management Plan (NFMP).
The rule will consist of two parts:
- The first will apply to areas of the state overlying
vulnerable groundwater areas where nitrogen fertilizer applications in the fall
or to frozen soils will have restrictions.
- The second will apply to areas where measured nitrate levels
in groundwater are elevated and the state has determined that nitrogen
fertilizer Best Management Practices (BMPs) are not being adopted. Restrictions
will vary for different regions and soil types, and will be based on the
nitrogen BMPs developed by the University of Minnesota and adopted by the MDA.
Visit the MDA’s Nitrogen
Fertilizer Rule website for more information, or contact Larry Gunderson at
Katie Wolf at email@example.com.
escalating costs to denitrify its drinking water, taken from the Raccoon River,
Moines Water Works is suing three upstream counties over nitrate levels in
provides drinking water for 500,000 urban and rural customers in central Iowa. To
meet federal standards, it had to denitrify its water for a record 148 days in
one year, according to Bill Stowe, CEO and General Manager of the utility.
That’s up from the previous record of 108 days.
recently spoke in St. Paul and Mankato as part of a lecture
series held by the Freshwater Society.
is suing three Iowa counties and their drainage districts. alleging they discharge
nitrate pollutants into the river, and fail to obtain a National Pollutant
Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit in violation of the Clean
Water Act. The complaint seeks to declare the drainage districts as “point
sources,” meaning they are subject to regulation and required to have a permit under
federal and Iowa law.
than 30 counties make up the drainage area for the Raccoon River, Des Moines
Water Works named the three counties of Buena Vista, Sac and Calhoun in the
lawsuit because water monitoring shows high nitrate concentrations in drainage
tile in those counties where the only source is agriculture. There are no other
sources such as wastewater treatment plants and golf courses, Stowe said.
chose to sue because it is spending more than $1 million a year to denitrify
its drinking water to safe consumption levels. If nitrate trends in the Raccoon
River continue to climb, then the utility will need to build a new
denitrification facility, estimated to cost between $76 million and $183
Stowe said he
understands the need to drain water for agriculture, but it’s being done with
no regard to the quantity and quality of water being moved downstream.
According to Iowa State University researchers, corn and soybean fields are the
primary cause of nitrate levels in Iowa waterways.
“No other business besides ag can run a pipe
without regulation to a water of the state,” Stowe said.
permit, the drainage districts would need to meet pollutant limits for their
discharges. Stowe cited conservation practices like nitrogen stabilizers and
saturated buffers that could reduce nitrate levels in streams.
want to bankrupt agriculture. We want to put the cost of taking out the nitrate
off our customers and back on the people benefiting from it,” he said. “This
not an issue that’s going to go away on voluntarism.”
news reports, Iowa farm leaders say solutions like cover crops and bioreactors that
reduce nitrogen leaching take time to get in place. Also, the law firm
representing the counties argues that the drainage districts have no power to
direct how landowners use or manage their properties, nor control over what
goes through the drainage tiles.
is scheduled to be heard in federal court in Sioux City in August 2016.
Agricultural drainage systems in Sac County, Iowa, from Stowe’s presentation.
a “people-shed” of rural stakeholders to adopt conservation practices is a key component
in restoring and protecting water quality, according to Dr. Ryan Atwell,
coordinator of social science at Yellowstone National Park. He spoke Oct. 15 at
the second annual Southern Minnesota Civic Engagement Summit.
50 staff from SWCDs, counties, watershed districts, universities, and state
agencies across southern Minnesota met at Land of Memories Park in Mankato for
this summit organized by the MPCA.
is experienced assessing opportunities to improve land management in agricultural
lands using social science and civic engagement techniques. He shared his
previous work experience in the Midwest on the science of rural decision-making
and leading discussions to help build multi-scale strategies for watershed
research, Atwell has found that internal beliefs and attitude, along with
social norms and networks, play a bigger role than economics in farmers’ and
rural residents’ decision-making process. He advised watershed professionals to
tap into people’s concern for their rural communities when trying to change
landscapes to better water quality. He also stressed that civic engagement
needs to be genuine to succeed and to focus more on “why” than “what.”
presentation can be found here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BwYuaMjRZa5aNTVMNUkwcXYxREE/view?usp=sharing
speaking was Tobias Spanier, a U of M Extension Educator in Leadership and
Civic Engagement. He helped the group take a closer look at their civic
engagement efforts and hosted an interactive session on
visioning for civic engagement to achieve landscape change and water
Joanne Boettcher of the Mankato MPCA office, a couple key points stood out:
it takes a multi-level approach to facilitate landscape change and bring about wide-scale
adoption of effective conservation practices. Watershed professionals need to
work at three levels:
times, watershed professionals are working in only the field or community
scale. While this does not mean their work is ineffective, they do need to realize
that there are constraints to a program that cannot work at all three levels.
Two, conservation work calls for some compromise. Programs and
conservation that can hit multiple objectives, including keeping the landscape
a working landscape, are much more likely to be adopted and have success. The
idea that agricultural lands should be converted back to a prairie, for
instance, is a non-starter for many landowners and producers. People have seen
lands come out of production only to be taken over by weeds.
working grasslands offer a win-win: they keep land in agricultural productivity
but have far greater environmental benefits compared to conventional row crop
summit was a success, according to participants. When asked if they had any
burning questions, one said, “No, just burning desire to get started again with