Agriculture Stewardship - Land, Water, Livestock - May 2018

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Ag Water stewardship

May 2018

Online tool helps timing of manure applications with weather

runoff risk advisory map

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) has teamed up with the National Weather Service to design a tool that helps farmers and commercial applicators determine the best time to apply manure.

The Runoff Risk Advisory Forecast tool uses past and predicted National Weather Service weather data like precipitation, temperature, and snow melt. It predicts the likelihood that applied manure will run off fields in daily, next day, and 72 hour increments. Farmers and commercial applicators use an interactive map to locate their field and find the forecasted risk. Users can also sign up for email or text messages for their county that alert them to a severe runoff risk for that day. Full news release.

The Runoff Risk Advisory Forecast is the first active tab.  There are four levels of risk (No Runoff Expected, Low, Moderate and Severe) that could be shown on the map. When the risk is Moderate or Severe, it is recommended that the applicator evaluate the situation to determine if there are other locations or later dates when the application could take place. You can select to see risk for Day 1 (default shown), Day 2 (Tomorrow), Day 3 or Multiday (72 hours). 

The forecasting tool can also be used by others looking for climate information including 2” soil depth temperatures which are useful at planting time, 6” soil depth temperatures which are helpful when determining fall fertilizer application in appropriate areas and daily precipitation forecasts. These can be found on the tabs at the top of the website.

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April 29-May 6 named to celebrate soil and water stewardship

soil health

The National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) designates April 29-May 6 as Soil and Water Stewardship Week. In its 63rd year,  it promotes resource conservation across the country. This year the theme is “Watersheds: Our Water, Our Home” and highlights the importance of caring for one of the most critical resources in the world, water. Gov. Mark Dayton has made the protection of Minnesota’s water quality a top priority of his administration.

Each year more than 3,000 conservation districts nationwide participate in the event, making Stewardship Week one of the largest national conservation programs in the world. NACD relies on each local conservation district to encourage stewardship through educational programs, field days and workshops. In Minnesota there are 89 soil and water conservation districts working in both urban and rural settings.

“Soil and Water Conservation Districts are locally led and the staff that lead each district are knowledgeable about resource issues within their communities,” says LeAnn Buck, Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts Executive Director. “They focus on providing soil and water conservation services to private landowners, which is essential because seventy-eight percent of Minnesota’s lands are private."

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Blog posts on soil health definition, injected manure effects

U of M Extension offers two new soil health blog posts: "What is your definition for soil health?" and "Effects of liquid manure injection into a winter rye cover crop: on-farm trials." Each month will include a new article with the purpose of defining the current state of the science related to manure and soil health. A team of university and NRCS professionals from the North Central region are initiating several educational activities addressing soil health topics including this blog .  

What is your definition for soil health?Christina Curell, Michigan State University:

Over the past several years, state and federal agencies and researchers have been trying to come up with a definition for soil health. The NRCS defines soil health as "the continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals, and humans." Another definition embraced by many is the improved function in terms of crop yield response to inputs, such as fertilizer efficiency. Continue Reading...

Effects of liquid manure injection into a winter rye cover crop: on-farm trials - Les Everett, University of Minnesota Water Resources Center and Randy Pepin, U of M Extension:

Nitrate levels above the drinking water standard of 10 ppm are frequently found in subsurface drainage tile water or groundwater below farm fields of the upper Midwest. Nitrogen comes from applied manure and fertilizer, along with natural mineralization of organic matter. Continue reading 

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Groundwater protection rule comment begins April 30

The Dept. of Agriculture's proposed Groundwater Protection Rule was published in the State Register April 30 launching an 80-day public comment period. The goal of the rule is to work with local farmers to reduce elevated nitrate levels in groundwater and ensure Minnesota residents have clean, safe, and reliable drinking water supplies.

Nitrate is one of the most common contaminants in Minnesota's groundwater; elevated nitrate levels in drinking water can pose serious health concerns for humans. The proposed rule, which is based on the input of the farmers and landowners who the rule would apply to, would regulate the use of nitrogen fertilizer in areas of the state where soils are prone to leaching and where drinking water supplies are threatened.

Starting April 30 public comments on the rule can be made on the Office of Administrative Hearings website at The rule is part of the state’s overall Nitrogen Fertilizer Management Plan developed with broad stakeholder input over five years and implemented in 2015. More information on the rule and the NFMP is available at

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Minnesota water research digital library update goes live

The Minnesota Dept. of Agriculture has been developing a Minnesota Water Research Digital Library (MNWRL). The library was recently enhanced, and at the same time doubled in size to now include over 2,600 peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed articles and reports (including “grey” literature that can be hard to find).  The new version of the library just went online and seems rather user-friendly (but may still need further testing). Check it out at: The lead person at MDA for this project is Steve Roos (Agricultural Marketing and Development Division  651-201-6631,

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Buffer strips lead South Fork Crow River improvement ideas

buffer crow

Buffer strips are the top water-quality improvement strategy in the South Fork Crow River watershed, according to new draft reports released April 17 by Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). The agency and local partners are seeking public comments through May 16 about the buffer strip implementation efforts and other protection and restoration strategies.

The Total Maximum Daily Load report establishes the amount of each pollutant that a water body can accept and still meet water quality standards. It identifies 42 stream segments failing to meet water quality standards due to low dissolved oxygen, high phosphorus levels, and altered hydrology. The report also shows that field drainage and tile drainage to waterways, especially Buffalo Creek and the South Fork Crow River, are important factors in stream impairments.

The Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy summarizes past efforts to monitor and improve water quality, and identifies future strategies for restoring and protecting the watershed’s water quality. The WRAPS report identifies areas along Silver Creek and the South Fork Crow River, upstream of Hutchinson, where healthy buffer strips are helping to improve water quality. Other suggested strategies include increasing water storage, proper culvert and bridge sizing, adding riparian buffers with deep roots, and restoring connectivity and natural stream channels.

The South Fork Crow River watershed is located in south-central Minnesota and encompasses parts of Kandiyohi, Renville, Meeker, McLeod, Sibley, Wright, Carver, and Hennepin counties. The South Fork Crow River joins with the North Fork Crow at Rockford and then joins the Mississippi River near Dayton.

The reports are available at:, or at the MPCA’s St. Paul office, at 520 Lafayette Road North. The MPCA encourages those interested in the South Fork Crow River Watershed to review and provide feedback on the reports. Comments may be submitted to Scott Lucas, MPCA, 7678 College Road, Baxter, MN, 56425, or by e-mail to, by 4:30 p.m. on May 16, 2018. For more information, contact Scott at 218-316-3874, or toll-free at 800-657-3864.

Written comments must indicate whether they pertain to the South Fork Crow River watershed’s TMDL or WRAPS report. They should clearly state the action you wish the MPCA to take, including references to sections of the report that you believe should be changed; please provide specific reasons supporting your position. More information is available on the MPCA’s watershed web pages.

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Marcie Weinandt leaves ag water quality program on the rise

klaverkamp farm

Marcie Weinandt retired May 1 from the Dept. of Agriculture after working more than 30 years on rural development, agriculture and water resources, impacting local to national policy with partners in non-profits, educational institutions and local, state, tribal and national governments.

In the last five years she worked on the development and implementation of the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program. Photo: Water quality certification award at a Stearns County dairy farm, (L-R): Mark Lefebvre, Marcie Weinandt, Dean Klaverkamp, Dennis Fuchs.

"It's been a great run. I've had some fabulous opportunities in diverse rural and water quality areas," Marcie says. Working with county SWCDs, the Water Quality Certification Program has been growing steadily, now with more than 1,044 new conservation practices across 354,492 acres on 555 farms. Two recent staff hires will continue to work with program director Brad Redlin. "It's all in good hands," she says.

Prior to MDA Marcie was CEO of the Midwest Assistance Program, a nine-state organization providing water and waste water technical assistance to small rural communities, policy director for the Rural Policy Research Institute in Washington DC, Minnesota Rural Partners Director, Renville County Commissioner and serving on the Citizens’ Advisory Committee for the Minnesota River. "I started my career writing the first Local Comprehensive Water Plans for six southwestern counties in 1988," she says. 

Now with more time Marcie plans to visit out-of-state grandchildren more often, and volunteer with political campaigns. Living in Mounds View she will continue on the citizens advisory committee for the Rice Creek Watershed.

MAWQCP Insider newsletter

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Ag drainage-water quality workshop June 27 in Mankato

ISG announces a workshop June 27 in Mankato on agricultural drainage and future of water quality. Check-in at the Verizon Center opens at 8 a.m. and the workshop runs from 9 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. The registration fee is $30 and space is limited; register online. For more information, contact ISG's Principal + Agricultural Drainage leader: Chuck Brandel PE,

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Small grains: An easier way to plant (and grow) cover crops

Establishing cover crops in corn and soybeans is not without its challenges in Minnesota. There is little growing season left after harvest and soil moisture and herbicide carryover can often limit the ability to get a good cover crop stand when interseeding mid-season. Wheat, barley, and oats make establishing cover crops much easier. Small grains also provide the opportunity to interseed cover crops. After all, interseeding alfalfa with oats is a common method to establish alfalfa. This approach can easily be extended to other legumes, including clovers and even grasses like annual ryegrass.  Read more. - Minnesota Extension Crop News, 4/13/18.

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Water fee advisory committee to meet May 4

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is considering an update to its water fees and has created the Water Fee Advisory Committee to provide input to the Commissioner on this important topic. The next Water Fee Advisory Committee meeting will be held on May 4, 2018, from 9:00 - 12:00 at the MPCA St. Paul office Board Room and via WebEx. The Advisory Committee meetings are open to the public.  

The MPCA will provide more information about this meeting and how to access the meeting via WebEx closer to the date. Please visit the Water Quality Fee Rule webpage for updates. The webpage also contains information about the water fees.

Please forward this announcement to other interested parties that you know. They can sign up to receive these notices about the Water Quality Fee Rule at subscribe here.

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Highly contagious disease has horse owners on high alert

The Minnesota Board of Animal Health urges horse owners to do their part to stop the spread of a highly contagious horse disease after it has been confirmed in neighboring states. North and South Dakota recently confirmed cases of Equine Herpesvirus Myeloencephalopathy (EHM), a potentially fatal and reportable disease. The last case of EHM diagnosed in Minnesota was in 2015. The Board has an official control plan for EHM, and if a Minnesota horse is confirmed to be EHM positive or has been determined to be exposed to the disease, it must be quarantined. The Board then works with herd veterinarians and horse owners to carry out testing and observation protocols defined in the control plan before the quarantines can be released. Read full BAH news release.

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In the news

SWCS Conservation News Briefs
Carrot vs. stick: How should Minnesota get to cleaner water?
MPR, 4/16/18
What is sustainability? It depends on who you ask
AgWeek, 4/16/18

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June 6-8: World Pork Expo, Des Moines.
June 19-21: Agro-forestry Institute, SWROC, Lamberton.
June 27: Ag drainage and water quality workshop, Verizon Center, Mankato.
July 10: Summer Beef Tour, Cottonwood County fairgrounds, Windom.

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The MPCA Agriculture Stewardship-Land, Water, Livestock newsletter 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.