Agriculture Stewardship - Land, Water, Livestock - June 2018

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Ag Water stewardship

June 2018

Upper Midwest Tillage Guide lays out benefits, best options

tillage no-till

The "Upper Midwest Tillage Guide" is a regional resource for crop producers and advisers interested in reducing tillage, but who may not feel comfortable choosing the best options for a specific operation. The 40-page guide lays out the benefits of various equipment types and tillage options in four chapters that may be read consecutively or individually. A collaboration between the University of Minnesota Extension and North Dakota State University, the guide's authors are Jodi DeJong-Hughes, U of M Extension; and Aaron Daigh, NDSU soil scientist. Photo: Planting soybeans directly into unchopped corn stubble in Kandiyohi County.

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Just in time for spring construction planning: 0% loans for water quality projects

As spring arrives and watershed professionals’ thoughts turn toward construction, the Clean Water Partnership (CWP) Loan program is continuously accepting loan applications for nonpoint source pollution implementation projects. These 0% interest loans are flexible and can help fill funding needs, such as matching other federal or state grants. The entire implementation period and repayment period is completely interest free. Borrow now, implement the project for three years, and pay the loan back over 10 years. Funds can be available in as little as 60 days.

Eligible projects include:

  • Buffers
  • Septic system upgrades and replacements
  • Technical assistance
  • Equipment such as street sweepers and conservation tillage equipment
  • Feedlot upgrades or replacements
  • Any Best Management Practices (BMPs) to address nonpoint source pollution
  • Urban green infrastructure such as rain gardens, green roofs, and rainwater reuse

Local government units can use these funds to implement the work or loan the funds to a resident to implement the projects. This is a great opportunity to fund projects that may not be the best fit for grant applications, such as addressing inflow and infiltration issues or upgrading and replacing septic systems.

Any local government unit with revenue-generating capability is eligible to apply or they can sponsor a loan for another entity, such as a soil and water conservation district, to complete the project. The process is quick and easy. For more information contact Cindy Penny at 651-757-2099 or Or visit the MPCA website at

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Information meetings slated for groundwater protection rule

crop irrigation

The Department of Agriculture is holding a series of public informational meetings to present information about the proposed Groundwater Protection Rule and the rulemaking process. The meetings are informational only and not part of the official rulemaking process. Information meeting schedule remaining:

  • June 5, 7-8:30 p.m., Minnesota State College Southeast, Red Wing.
  • June 6, 7- 8:30 p.m., Kasson-Mantorville High School.
  • June 18, 7-8:30 p.m., Minnesota West Community and Technical College, Pipestone.
  • June 19, 8-9:30 a.m., Ridgewater College, Hutchinson.
  • June 28, 8-9:30 a.m., Orville L. Freeman Building, 625 Robert St. N., Paul.

The goal of the Groundwater Protection 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 based on the input of the farmers and landowners affected 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.

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'Groundwater stories' begin with the aquifer and those sharing it


Sharing with your neighbors is a choice, except when it comes to drawing water from the same aquifer. We rely on groundwater if we live in a rural community, operate a feedlot, irrigate crops, or invest in the diverse industries across the state. This sharing can take many forms. It could be a small cluster of feedlots and irrigated fields tapped into a small, isolated aquifer, or two or more towns and a large industry miles apart. With the diverse geology in Minnesota each community has a unique groundwater story. 

The DNR southern region resumed reaching out to communities to deliver the “first chapter” of their groundwater story. DNR staff meet with the local government staff prior to presenting to the city council, county or SWCD board, township or other planning bodies.

To begin the story the DNR provides three bits of information; 1) the size of the aquifer, 2) the water use trends, and 3) what the observation wells show about the aquifer levels. If the communities see a need they can initiate a Community-based Aquifer Management Partnership (CAMP), where other agencies get involved and more details of the story can be developed. The community can also include their needs and desires relative to their economy or growth plans. Because many communities have a limited water supply, water becomes a deciding factor in whether it can support irrigation, home developments, or a wet industry. For example, a 160-acre irrigated corn field may use as much water as a town of 700 people.

Local and state groundwater goals can best be met if communities recognize that land use decisions are also water use decisions. To learn more about the CAMP or learn about your own groundwater story, contact Tim Gieseke, DNR Groundwater Planner and CAMP coordinator at 507-359-6039 or

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Les Everett leaves a robust legacy for ag and water quality

les everett

Successful programs and progress sometimes can be taken for granted by those who follow pioneers. In the realm of agricultural stewardship of soil and water, Les Everett of the U of M's Water Resources Center is a prime example. A half-hour at his retirement party May 23 barely gave enough time to review his work and hear accolades from co-workers. A testament to his external relations over the years, in addition to the University were friends and colleagues from a variety of state and local agencies including BWSR, MPCA, MDA, and SWCDs.

A long table displayed the numerous publications that he worked on over his 25 years the University. He managed a number of major projects primarily in the areas of nutrient and manure management, feedlot rules, LiDAR, and conservation tillage, detailed in various publications and web pages:

In 1973-75 he was a Peace Corps agricultural volunteer in Africa before returning to earn an MS in agronomy at Cornell, and a PhD in plant breeding at the U of M. He came to the University's Water Resources Center in 1994 following 10 years of research in Africa with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Nigeria and Cameroon. Following his retirement Les plans to remain in the area volunteering on projects and helping at the family farm south of Grinnell, IA, and continue to assist with ag research in Cameroon. Photo: Les chats with Jodi DeJong-Hughes of U of M Extension.

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Water detention structures installed in Dobbins Creek

dobbins creek cedar river

The largest project in the Cedar River Watershed District’s nearly $8.4 million Capital Improvement Plan is nearing construction in the upland area of Dobbins Creek’s north branch, southeast of Brownsdale. A complex project, Dobbins 1 has been in the works for more than two years with multiple landowners and requiring a several dozen signatures, according to Cody Fox, CRWD project manager. Dobbins 1 will consist of two water-detention structures or earthen dams on private land. (Depicted in aerial photo).

Dobbins 1 is targeted in the upland area of North Dobbins, a stream highly prone to flash flooding. North Dobbins flows into the South Branch of Dobbins Creek at Austin’s Jay C. Hormel Nature Center before becoming East Side Lake. Dobbins then flows into the Cedar River State Water Trail in Austin’s Driesner Park. Once completed it is expected to reduce peak flood flows by 82 percent immediately downstream from its structures, keeping about 134 tons of sediment and 218 pounds of phosphorus per year out of Dobbins.

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Water Quality Advisory Committee to meet June 8

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. The next Water Fee Advisory Committee meeting will be 9 a.m.-noon June 8 at the MPCA St. Paul office Board Room and via WebEx. 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. To sign up to receive notices about the Water Quality Fee Rule at subscribe here.

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News briefs

Crop news blog: Assess risk for fertilizer N loss

A new post has been published to the Minnesota Crop News Blog: Assess your risk for fertilizer N loss and manage N application decisions with late planting. Wet weather and increasing temperatures in southern Minnesota are raising concerns about potential nitrogen fertilizer loss. Extension Educator Brad Carlson discusses how the risks of nitrogen loss differ with fall vs. spring applications, weather conditions and sources in a new video. To continue reading, view page:

Minnesota water research digital library update posted

The web address the Minnesota Water Research Digital Library (MNWRL) was incorrect in a previous newsletter. The correct URL is 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 lead person at MDA for this project is Steve Roos (Agricultural Marketing and Development Division  651-201-6631,

Filing for SWCD elections begins May 22 through June 5

The filing period for Soil and Water Conservation District board candidates begins May 22 through June 5.  Click here for more information. Nancy Benson has served on the Wadena SWCD Board of Supervisors for the past 10 years, and says that it’s one of the best investments of her time. “We can’t make more land, so we have to take care of what we have,” Benson says. “Serving your soil and water conservation district is such a worthwhile task – you gain something, you give back to your community, and you’re working with wonderful people who all care about conservation. If you’re considering running but are unsure, know that there are wonderful leadership workshops and trainings that will help you become a board member who is a true asset to your community.” - MASWCD May newsletter.

Webinar topic: Manure impact on soil properties

A May 18 webinar featured the relationships of land applied livestock manure and other organic materials to soil aggregation, resistance to erosion and microbial dynamics in consideration of field characteristics. The webinar addressed effects that go beyond manure's capability to provide NPK to crops, such as nutrient cycling and soil physical and biological properties. Presenters: Linda Schott and Charles Wortmann, University of Nebraska - Lincoln. Recording of the webinar...

Extension preparing report on cover crops and manure project

The North Central Water Network posted a synopsis of the Extension report on the cover crops and manure project. "Effects of liquid manure injection into a winter rye cover crop: on-farm trials" was authored by Les Everett, U of M Water Resources, and Randy Pepin, CenterU of M Extension. They concluded that in central and southern Minnesota it is feasible to establish cereal rye cover crop after corn silage or soybean harvest, inject liquid manure, capture root-zone nitrate with the rye, and deliver sufficient nitrogen to the subsequent corn crop. A more comprehensive article will be posted later this spring or summer.

New staff named in county feedlot programs

Counties delegated to administer the state's feedlot rules except for federal and state operating permits report new staff in the following counties: Morrison, Addison March; Big Stone, Danny Tucket; Cottonwood, Alex Schultz; Houston, Amelia Meiners; Nobles, Mitchell Hartwig; Renville, Matt Steele; and Waseca, David Malakowsky.

Job opening for outreach on ag water quality resources

The IPM Institute of North America, a non-profit based in Madison, WI, is seeking to fill a staff position in the Mankato area for the organization’s Partnership for Ag Resource Management project in the Blue Earth River watershed. This position would lead educational outreach in the Mankato area and promote adoption of products and services that ag retailers can offer to improve water quality. Submit a resume, salary history, three professional references, and cover letter detailing your qualifications for the position to Mark Adelsperger at or mail to Partnership for Ag Resource Management, 211 Paterson St., Suite 380, Madison, WI, 53715.

EPA reports on coordination for nonpoint source measures in hypoxia task force states

The Nonpoint Source Workgroup of the Hypoxia Task Force has produced a summary of nutrient reduction measures among member states, and critical metrics for tracking and informing progress toward reducing nutrient loadings to the Gulf of Mexico. This document represents the first-ever report that focuses on the Hypoxia Task Forceicoordinated effort to account specifically for nonpoint source changes, primarily agricultural, that influence nutrient loading from a variety of methods. To read the report and learn how the Hypoxia Task Force and partners are supporting states in the Mississippi River Basin to implement nutrient strategies and conservation practices to reduce nutrient loadings contributing to hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico, visit: .

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Dust storms or cover crops?

SD dust storm crash

The Cannon River Watershed District (CRWD) newsletter for May shares a social media post by the South Dakota Highway Patrol showing several cars that crashed Sunday, April 29, west of Miller, SD when wind caused zero visibility along a two-mile stretch of road. A foot of dirt drifted around this vehicle after it crashed in the dust storm. (South Dakota Highway Patrol photo posted April 30)

Below, the CRWD photo of a field between Faribault and Dundas allows you to see an area of a harvested corn field that was not planted with a cover crop and the area where a cover crop was planted. Cover crops are plants such as annual rye grass, winter rye, radish, and clovers that are usually planted after fall harvest. These plants keep living cover on the landscape until the following spring’s planting of cash crops.  Cover crops improve water quality by keeping nutrients in the soil and by keeping the soil in the field. You can see in the photo how well the cover crop protects this field from soil loss from wind erosion. 

SE MN cover crops Cannon River

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In the news

Soil and Water Conservation Society news
May 2018
MPCA SSTS Bulletin (Subsurface Sewage Treatment System)
May 2018

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June 6-8: World Pork Expo, Des Moines.
June 11-12: 4R Summit, Des Moines.
June 13-14: Minnesota Milk Cup and Summer Escape, Glenwood.
June 19: Agronomy field tour, SROC-Waseca.
June 27: Winter camelina open house-field day, SROC-Waseca.
July 10: Summer Beef Tour, Cottonwood County fairgrounds, Windom.

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Send the news

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.