Agriculture Stewardship - Land, Water, Livestock - September 2017

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Ag Water stewardship

September 2017

Big crowds, lively discussion at water quality meetings

water quality meetings

The "25 by 25" water quality town hall meetings continue to draw large crowds. More than 200 attended the Sept. 6 event in St. Cloud. After brief comments by Gov. Dayton, state commissioners, and local speakers, the audience gathered in small groups to discuss water quality issues and offer solutions. 

Following the series of town hall meetings, the governor's office will compile all the comments and ideas into a final report. The town hall meetings continue Gov. Dayton’s efforts to protect and preserve Minnesota waters, including his “25 by 25” Water Quality proposal announced earlier this year.

Achieving a 25 percent improvement in water quality statewide would require Minnesota to take aggressive, yet achievable action. It also would help Minnesota meet existing commitments to reduce phosphorus 12 percent by 2025 and nitrogen 45 percent by 2040 in the Mississippi River. The meetings run from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. with registration beginning at 6 p.m. No advance registration is necessary. A detailed list of dates and locations is available online. Remaining schedule:

  • Sept. 27: Minneapolis Urban League.
  • Oct. 4: Diamondhead Education, Burnsville.
  • Oct. 5: Stillwater High School, Stillwater.

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Another great line-up for Ag and Animal Science Conference

MinnWest campus

The 2017 Ag and Animal Science conference Sept. 27 offers noted speakers and vital topics for the livestock industry. Registration is open online for the event at the Minnwest Technology Campus in Willmar. The opening session features Kim Lear, a speaker, writer, strategist, and researcher who explores how emerging trends impact the future of our workforce and marketplace.

The voices of local ag leaders will follow with stories of their experiences from Alise Sjostrom: Cheesemaker and president, Red Head Creamery, LLC; Massoud Kazemzadeh, Ph.D., co-founder and COO, Kay’s Natural’s; Wanda Patsche, producer, CW Pork and blogger for Minnesota Farm Living; and Kami Anez, president, Anez Consulting.

The morning session concludes with Donna Moenning speaking on "Understanding Consumer Angst about Food & Ag and What You Can Do About It." The lunch keynote will be John Phipps, "Create Your Own Normal: Effective Decision-Making Amid Uncertainty." John is the former host and current commentator for US Farm Report, America's longest-running farm TV show. He was raised on a five-generation farm in east-central Illinois and he his his wife returned to the family farm which now comprises 2,100 acres in Edgar County, IL. He writes humor and commentary, appearing regularly in Farm Journal and Top Producer magazines as a contributing editor. 

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Page to address ag and water quality at WRC conference

greg page

Greg Page, retired CEO and chairman of Cargill, will keynote the lunch session of the Water Resources Conference Oct. 17, speaking on "Water Quality and Agriculture."  In recent years Page has been a noted speaker on promoting cooperative and community approaches to addressing water quality and agriculture. The conference is Oct. 17-18 at the St. Paul RiverCentre, offered by the U of M Water Resources Center.

Speaking at the Jan. 27 water town hall summit in Morris and reported in Agri-News, Page said "we need change in collective behavior," and that starts with building trust with the farming community. Building trust reduces resistance to change and will help solve the water quality problem faster. Page would like to see a “localized, nuanced response to the state’s water quality issues." One place to start may be with an action plan through the Crop Improvement Association in every county. Full story. (Photo: Kansas Ag Network).

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U picks Wilson for manure management specialist post

melissa wilson

Dr. Melissa Wilson has been named assistant professor of manure management and water quality for the the U of M Dept. of Soil, Water, and Climate. Her research will focus on evaluating manure handling techniques that reduce impacts on water quality. Working in the Extension service, she plans to conduct a needs assessment gathering input from livestock producers about techniques most needed or of interest. Her past research and experience includes: cover crops and fall manure application, manure side-dressing, and stakeholder outreach. 

Prior to her new appointment, Wilson was nutrient management specialist for the Agricultural Nutrient Management Program at the University of Maryland. She received her bachelors in environmental science with a geology minor from Juniata College in Huntingdon, PA, her master’s degree and PhD in water resources science with a soil science minor from the University of Minnesota. Some of her research includes cover crops and evaluation of polymer coated urea on irrigated crops in coarse textured soils. University of Maryland photo.

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Hawk Creek watershed strategy approved, on to EPA

Hawk Creek

The Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy for Hawk Creek has been approved by the MPCA, and has been forwarded to the U.S. EPA. The final WRAPS report is posted on the Minnesota River-Yellow Medicine River Watershed web page

The WRAPS report identifies impaired water bodies in the watershed and those in need of protection, and identifies the actions needed to achieve and maintain water quality. The associated Total Maximum Daily Load report quantifies the pollutant levels, identifies pollution sources, and proposes ways to return water quality to an acceptable level.

Many groups are participating in restoration and protection efforts, including the Hawk Creek Watershed Project, Soil and Water Conservation Districts, agriculture, cities and several state and local organizations. The watershed is located in southwestern Minnesota in major portions of Kandiyohi, Renville, and Chippewa counties. Hawk Creek is a major tributary of the Minnesota River, entering about eight miles southeast of Granite Falls.(Photo: Discussion at a public workshop in early 2016.)

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Survey: Farmers using cover crops report yield increases

cover crops

Following the use of cover crops, farmers reported increased yields of corn, soybeans and wheat, and improvement in the control of herbicide-resistant weeds, according to a nationwide survey. In addition, the survey of 2,012 farmers showed acreage planted in cover crops has nearly doubled over the past five years. Survey participants—88% of whom use cover crops—reported that after cover crops:

  • Corn yields increased an average of 2.3 bushels per acre, or 1.3 percent;
  • Soybean yields increased 2.1 bushels per acre, or 3.8 percent;
  • Wheat yields increased 1.9 bushels per acre, or 2.8 percent.

The poll was conducted by the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) with help from Purdue University and funding support from USDA’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program and the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA). More. 

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Success with cover crops has a field day in Renville County

cover crops

A cover crop field day in Renville County Sept. 20 demonstrated how using cover crops along with minimum or no tillage reduces soil erosion, increases water infiltration, builds soil, and reduces nitrogen loss.

Growing interest in cover crops drew about 60 farmers and agency staff to the event, which started at the Danube Community Center and was hosted by the Renville SWCD, Hawk Creek Watershed Project, Renville County Environmental Services, and North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education.

Out in the fields, infiltration tests showed how water quickly seeped into the cover crop ground, but pooled on compacted ground of conventional methods. Describing their experience at one of the field stops, Brad Nere says he and son-in-law farming partner Kyle VanOverbeke plan to go 100 percent with cover crops next year. They also graze cattle on crop residue and cover crops, which benefits soil health from hoof action.

For more information about using cover crops see the Dept. of Agriculture cover crop webpage. Photo: Brad Nere, center, talks about their cover crop experience, while Holly Hatlewick of Renville SWCD checks out the structure of a clump of healthy soil. At left is Kooper Cleveland with Minnesota Agricultural Services, Granite Falls.

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How to estimate nitrogen loss from leaching

A new post has been published to the Minnesota Crop News Blog: How to Estimate Nitrogen Loss from Leaching. The nitrogen cycle dictates the form and movement of nitrogen in the soil and in plants. Given adequate time and temperature, nitrogen in the soil will convert to the nitrate form, which is susceptible to loss in two pathways: denitrification, which happens in saturated soils that lack oxygen, and leaching, which happens when water moves through the soil, taking nitrate with it. Continue reading.

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International drone contest underway on Minnesota farm

Reported in Dairy Star: Judges from the University of Minnesota and Winfield United ag tech experts selected three finalists to compete in a closed live judging event, demonstrating their proposed solutions in a field setting at Westland Dairy, in Watkins, MN Sept. 20-22. Three teams of finalists have come from Massachusetts, North Carolina and Australia for a chance to win up to $140,000 in prize money. Read more.

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In the news

Cover crops may be a forage alternative
High Plains Journal, 8/28/17
BWSR expands resources available for landowners pursuing alternative practices to buffers
News release, 8/30/17
CREP signups open in Mower County, state; Mower SWCD seeks landowners to discuss permanent conservation
Austin Daily Herald, 8/31/17
Feedlot concerns prompt commissioners to consider review of existing ordinance
Pipestone County Star, 9/13/17
Can American soil be brought back to life?
Politico, 7/13/17
Goodhue County feedlot opponents say owner violates air standards
Star Tribune, 9/15/17
Cover crops gaining use
The Progressive Farmer, 9/15/17
Zumbrota Township feedlot challenged in court
Red Wing Republican Eagle, 9/21/17

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Sept. 26: Ag and Animal Science Conference, MinnWest Technology Campus, Willmar.
Oct. 17-18: Minnesota Water Resources Conference, St. Paul RiverCentre.
Oct. 20-22: Minnesota Beef Expo, State fair coliseum, St. Paul.
Nov. 28-29: Green Lands Blue Waters Conference and Farm Tour, Madison, WI.
Nov. 30-Dec. 2: Minnesota Cattle Industry convention, DoubleTree Hotel, Bloomington.

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