Agriculture Stewardship - Land, Water, Livestock - August 2017

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Ag Water stewardship

August 2017

More farms earn agricultural water quality certification

hoese dairy farm

Hoese Dairy first in Carver County

The Hoese Dairy recently became the first farm in Carver County to become certified in the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program. The fifth generation dairy also raises alfalfa, corn, beans and small grains. Conservation practices include filter strips, conservation cover, precision nutrient management, and soil health building practices such as perennials crops and cover crops. Photo: MDA Assistant Commissioner Matt Wohlmann, MPCA Assistant Commissioner Rebecca Flood, Scott and Eric Hoese.

The MAWQCP is a voluntary opportunity for farmers and agricultural landowners to take the lead in implementing conservation practices that protect our water. Those who implement and maintain approved farm management practices will be certified and in turn obtain regulatory certainty for a period of ten years. 

dombeck farm certification

Dombecks certified in Otter Tail County

A north central Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification event held recently at the Bob and Tiffany Dombeck's Sandhill Dairy and Toad River Farms near Perham recognized them for their efforts of protecting Minnesota's water quality and their successful completion of Minnesota's Agricultural Water Quality Certification process. 

The Dombecks use cover crops on irrigated edible beans, corn silage and potato crops. They follow the University of Minnesota Nutrient Best Management Practices for corn and edible beans, are reducing tillage and deferring tillage to spring. In addition, they have installed buffers to address the water resource concerns. 

The Dombeck's farm operations join 447 farm operations in Minnesota who have achieved Water Quality Certification status representing 260,720 acres. More than 807 new conservation practices have been implemented since the program went statewide two summers ago. Pictured: Brittany Johnson, East Otter Tail SWCD; Bob Dombeck; Darren Newville and Jim Lahn, both with EOT SWCD.

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Cover crop pioneers gaining audience among farmers

Hawk Creek cover crops

For crop producers interested in trying cover crops, some of the best advice comes from the handful already doing it. Along with all the technical stuff, they'll say 'stay out of the coffees shops' and 'get past the skepticism of neighbors'.

More than 75 farmers and agency staff turned out June 29 in Renville for a 'benefits of cover crops' meeting hosted by the Hawk Creek Watershed Project and Renville County SWCD. A panel of area farmers successfully using cover crops described their experiences and challenges. "After 40 years of conventional farming, this is upside down," said one panelist. "It's a huge learning curve" and start small. Photo, L-R: Brian Pfarr, Dawn and Grant Breitkreutz (with microphone), Brad Nere, and Brian Ryberg. Also participating: Kyle VanOverbeke and Joel Timm.

Survey feedback: 'We learned a lot'

"We had a lot of positive feedback with over 60% of post-meeting survey respondents saying they learned a great deal," says Heidi Rauenhorst, Hawk Creek coordinator. "They liked the visual demonstrations (presented by Holly Hatlewick, Renville SWCD administrator) of the slake test and rainfall simulator to see for themselves the difference in healthy soil and unhealthy soil." Comments about what they learned included:

  • Ripple effects of increased soil health,
  • Benefits of strip/no-till versus conventional tillage,
  • Different options for cover crop species,
  • Equipment modifications used to interseed cover crops,
  • Incorporating livestock into a cover cropping operation had huge benefits,
  • Seeing soil structure and organic matter differences in healthy and unhealthy soils,
  • Resources available to help with cover crops (seed sales, SWCD, HCWP, other farmers),
  • Effects of herbicides and timing on cover crops,
  • Differences in water infiltration rates of healthy versus unhealthy soils,

For more information see the Dept. of Agriculture cover crop webpage

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BWSR board tours water quality projects in Kandiyohi County

grass lake

Straddling three major watersheds, Kandyohi County in central Minnesota provided a variety of water quality demonstrations for the annual summer tour of the Board of Water and Soil Resources. Wednesday, Aug. 23, they visited sites including the "Squashed Frog" RIM project, water quality improvement at Diamond Lake, Rasmus Lake RIM/WRP project, and Grass Lake restoration.

Surrounded by rural residential and cropland areas, the projects show how water management practices in agricultural areas can support ag production and water quality objectives. The watersheds on the tour included Middle and South Fork Crow, Hawk Creek, and Chippewa.

As the state's soil and water conservation agency, BWSR administers programs that prevent sediment and nutrients from entering our lakes, rivers, and streams; enhance fish and wildlife habitat; and protect wetlands. The 20-member board consists of representatives of local and state government agencies and citizens. Photo: Loren Engelby of Kandiyohi County, left, and Tom Wenzel of BWSR describe the Grass Lake restoration project southeast of Willmar. 

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LPE September webcast about manure handling safety

LPE News logo

From the Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Center newsletter: The September webinar topic is very timely - manure safety. As fall application starts to ramp up, it is important to remember how to keep yourself, those working with you, and animals safe. A flyer will be posted at "Upcoming Webcasts" as soon as it is available.

Water Quality

  • Measurements of the "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico indicate 2017 is the largest ever measured at 8,776 square miles. High discharge rates from the Mississippi River were earlier predicted to result in a large hypoxic zone. The average size over the past five years has been just over 5,800 square miles. The target size is 1,900 square miles. Read more...
  • To help track the science related to agricultural operations and Great Lakes harmful algal blooms and hypoxia, the National Agricultural Library has created an online, automatically updated bibliography on the topic. "Great Lakes Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) and Hypoxia: Agricultural Aspects" is not a complete listing of all literature and does include some citations that may not have a strict agriculture focus.
  • University of Illinois researcher, Laura Christianson, is studying woodchip bioreactors, not only for their ability to remove nitrogen from runoff, but also phosphorus. How? She and a research team looked at the addition of a "P filter" either before or after the bioreactor. Neither placement affected the ability of the bioreactor to remove nitrogen. The amount of P removed varied depending on the material used in the filter. News release... | Journal article...
  • EPA, along with several partners, has announced a "Nutrient Sensor Action Challenge" with the goal of accelerating the development of affordable continuous sensors. The first stage of submissions closes September 20, 2017. Learn more or view the archived informational webinar...

Soil Health

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News briefs

Karen Pressley started Aug. 13 as the new County Feedlot Officer in Jackson County.

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In the news

MPCA releases its proposal for protecting wild rice from excess sulfide
News release, 8/21/17
AGRI grants help farmers test new ideas to drive sustainability
News release, 8/17/17
Hog facility in Mower County looking to expand production, environmental review underway
News release, 8/9/17
Comment period on nitrogen fertilizer rule ends August 25
News release, 8/17/17
Drainage technology, cover crops help to curb nutrient loss
Illinois Farmer Today, 8/19/17

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Ag-conservation field day events

Sept. 6: Strip till expo, 8:30-2:30, includes lunch, Piekarski farm, 24678 County Hwy 11, Fergus Falls.
Sept. 8: Cover crop and soil health learning tourBrunk Farm, 23068 220th St., Rushmore.

If you know of other field day events for this calendar, please contact Forrest Peterson, 320-441-6972, Thanks!

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Sept. 20-21: Animal nutrition conference, City Center Hotel, Mankato.
Sept. 26: Ag and Animal Science Conference, MinnWest Technology Campus, Willmar.
Oct. 17-18: Minnesota Water Resources Conference, St. Paul RiverCentre.

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The MPCA Feedlot Update welcomes news from partners about, projects, people, and upcoming events. Email submissions to Past issues of Feedlot Update are available on the feedlot program publications webpage.