Agriculture Stewardship-Land, Water, Livestock - May 2019

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Ag Water stewardship

May 2019

Meet Minnesota’s water quality certified farmers

Andrew Schock  farm in Wadena County, certified for water quality

The Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP) is quickly approaching 500,000 acres of water quality certified land. There are more than 734 farmers and 490,000 acres certified to date. To help tell the stories of certified farmers, the MAWQCP recently launched a Story Map about the work farmers are doing to protect water quality in Minnesota.

For example, Andrew Schock farms with his dad, Dale Schock, in Wadena County (photo). Depending on the year and the crop rotation, he may grow a combination of corn, soybeans, wheat, sunflowers, rye, and black beans. Andrew strives to make improvements to his operation each year, and is currently experimenting with cover crops. Andrew decided to become water quality certified to protect the future of his farm.

“If I’m going to be in business and carry the farm to the next generation, I have to continue to be better and push toward the edge of excellence in all aspects of farming - farm management, marketing and conservation,” he said.

The MAWQCP is a voluntary opportunity for farmers and agricultural landowners to take the lead in implementing conservation practices that protect our water. Certified farmers receive regulatory certainty for a period of ten years, recognition, and priority for technical and financial assistance.

Farmers and landowners interested in getting certified should visit the program webpage for more information.

Waste to worth conference presentations on LPELC webpage

lpelc logo

Livestock professionals from around the country were in Minnesota April 22-26 to attend the biennial Waste to Worth conference. The conference presents the nation’s best science on animal agriculture and the environment. The five-day event kicked off with tours of Minnesota farms and industries highlighting practices of energy conservation and converting perceived wastes into worth. The main focus of the event was a series of presentations over three days on such topics as water quality and soil health, manure treatment systems, emerging contaminants, and sustainable animal agriculture, among others. Summary of the presentations are available on the livestock and poultry environmental learning community (LPELC) website.

Office for Soil Health forum seeks soil health solutions

Soil health

Conservation and agricultural professionals from the public and private sectors gathered April 16 at the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus to discuss soil health solutions at the Minnesota Office for Soil Health’s (MOSH) first stakeholder forum. The Minnesota Office for Soil Health is a collaborative program created in 2017 by BWSR in partnership with the University of Minnesota Water Resources Center (WRC), a department housed in the College of Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS). MOSH strives to build local expertise to promote soil health and water conservation by developing the knowledge, skills, and abilities of local conservationists to promote sustainable soil and land management.

Minnesota River Basin Data Center to host information on water storage

water storage

If increased water storage on the landscape is important for overall water quality, access to information about water storage is also important. Following the April 4 Water Storage Forum in Mankato, a project is under way to store information online with the Minnesota River Basin Data Center of the Minnesota State University-Mankato Water Resources Center. A Minnesota GreenCorps project of Emma Young, it will develop a data clearinghouse about water storage with: Definitions and examples of the diverse forms of water storage, regional case studies, research and technical papers, as well as events related to water storage across the Minnesota River Basin

With many individuals and groups working on implementing and promoting water storage across the Minnesota River Basin, the goal is to aggregate and disseminate information about water storage and be an informational resource. While the website is under construction over the next several months feedback and advice are welcome. Anyone planning a water storage-related event can have it posted by e-mailing One such event is the Minnesota River Congress May 16 at St. Peter. About 150 attended the April 4 forum, with topics including why storage matters, climatic trends, hydrology, drainage management, water storage approaches, and soil health.

Extension Water Resources Center expands staff

The University of Minnesota Water Resource Center’s Extension water resources team announced several staff additions:

  • Brad Carlson will be continuing his role as an Extension educator, focusing on agriculture, nutrient management, and water quality.
  • Jodi DeJong-Hughes will continue her work on soil health and its benefits to water management. Jodi has led Minnesota’s contribution to the CTC, once known as the Conservation Tillage Conference but has broadened to include topics such as cover crops, weed management, and nutrient management in high-residue systems. The next CTC will be held December 17-18 in St. Cloud and is being planned in collaboration with the Minnesota Office of Soil Health.
  • Anne Nelson will be focusing on rural watersheds and agricultural water quality. Over the next several months, Anne will be developing her programs and activities, which will leverage her background in soil science and nitrate leaching.
  • Greg Klinger will be working with the water resources team to address nitrogen management and water quality issues across Southeast Minnesota. Read full Extension Water Team article by WRC associate director Joel Larson

Information about grazing available on new hotline

forbord cattle

Integrating grazing into your farming operation can add another income source and at the same time help the environment with more perennial vegetation. Getting the most out of such a system requires mastering the basics of pasture improvement, cover cropping, fencing technology and herd management. A new grazing hotline is now open with information about managed rotational grazing, cover crop grazing, stockpile grazing, winter feeding and pasture rental rates. Farmers and ranchers can call 1-888-664-7293 (1-888-MNGRAZE) or submit questions online at  

2017 census shows increase in women ag producers

The USDA's 2017 census of agriculture shows there are 2.04 million farms and ranches (down 3.2 percent from 2012) with an average size of 441 acres (up 1.6 percent) on 900 million acres (down 1.6 percent). For this census, the National Agricultural Statistics Service changed the demographic questions to better represent the roles of all persons involved in on-farm decision making. As a result, in 2017 the number of producers is up by nearly seven percent to 3.4 million, because more farms reported multiple producers. Most of these newly identified producers are female. While the number of male producers fell 1.7 percent to 2.17 million from 2012 to 2017, the number of female producers increased by nearly 27 percent to 1.23 million. Full news release.

Taking survey could help land ag plastics recycling facility

ag bags

A new recycling market for ag plastics could be around the corner if Minnesota ag producers can demonstrate a supply of 12.5 million pounds, or half the total needed for a new facility here. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is working to develop a plastic processing facility to wash and pelletize plastic film. The end product would be plastic pellets that can be used to manufacture new plastic bags, other film and other plastic partsAn anonymous survey will help determine how much agricultural plastic (bale wrappers, silage bags, berm covers, etc.) might be available for the proposed facility. The survey should take only a couple of minutes to complete, and is due May 12. Take the survey.

UW Discovery Farms update

Assessing the efficiency of N application on a per field basis is a valuable first step in evaluating N fertilizer management. From multiple years of data collection, we have established Wisconsin-specific benchmarks for NUE measurements in corn grain and corn silage. See our work in this peer-reviewed publication.

Tile water quality monitoring We are monitoring flow rates and collecting water samples to analyze nutrient and soil concentrations from tile drainage systems in northeastern Wisconsin. Take a look at a preliminary set of results from the 2018 water year. Measuring soil health A snapshot of results from biological and physical soil health measurements on Tile and Nitrogen Use Efficiency project fields are shared in this handout. Nitrogen Use Efficiency  Since 2015, we have monitored 157 corn grain fields and 101 corn silage fields in nine regions of Wisconsin. See results from the 2018 growing season in this handout.

Temporary feed storage needs runoff controls

The MPCA feedlot program reminds livestock producers that temporary feed stockpiles should meet run-off control requirements similar to permanent stockpile sites. Notably among dairies, temporary silage stockpiles are being seen in locations with potential for runoff to impact waters. Runoff from feed storage areas can impact water by lowering the oxygen supply in the water. Temporary stockpiles at sites with a NPDES or SDS permit should be located where stormwater runoff can be contained. Temporary stockpiles at other sites should use Best Management Practices including sufficient vegetated buffer area, an impermeable pad such as concrete or asphalt, or using plastic “ag bags.” For more information see the factsheet, “Feed storage areas at animal feedlots” on the MPCA feedlot program Construction, operation, and technical requirements web page.

Reduction and fate of manure pathogens and antimicrobial resistance

Manure treatment, such as composting, and manure land application are generally considered to be effective measures to reduce bacterial pathogens and utilize the manure in an environmentally sustainable manner. However, unlike pathogenic bacteria, antimicrobial resistant bacteria can persist throughout various manure treatments and land application events. Antimicrobial resistance is a complex issue as it is comprised of not only pathogenic bacteria, but also non-pathogens which share genes within complex environmental systems, such as agricultural fields. Furthermore, the presence of “native” antimicrobial resistance in the environment can limit our interpretation of what’s an effective manure treatment as well as predict “downstream” public health issues. The webinar will describe potential measures to reduce pathogen and antimicrobial resistance in manure as well as discuss potential fate and transport of manure pathogens and antimicrobial resistance following land application of manure. May 17, 2019 at 2:30 pm EST (1:30 CST; 12:30 MST; and 11:30 a.m. PST)  Read more or register for the webinar...  Presenters: Zong Liu, Ed Topp, and Lauren Wind   Add to calendar: Outlook | Google

In the news

Farmers using more conservation techniques despite lower enrollment In federal programs, KUNC radio, Greeley, CO.
MDA reminds Minnesotans to use pesticides and fertilizers with care, 4/29/19


May 15: Minnesota River Congress, American Legion, St. Peter.
June 12-13: Minnesota Milk Producers-Summer Escape, Spicer.
July 9: Summer Beef Tour, Morris.
July 10-11: Midwest Farm Energy Conference, U of M-Morris.
Aug. 6-8: Farm Fest, Gilfillan farm, Redwood County.
Dec. 17-18: Conservation Tillage Conference, St. Cloud

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.