Agriculture Stewardship - Land, Water, Livestock - September 2019

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Ag Water stewardship

September 2019

Field day shows how fish and farms all part of a watershed

fishers and farmers-table

More than 60 fishers and farmers teamed up on a field day Sept. 16 at the Roger Helgeson farm on Rice Creek near Northfield. "The event was a great success!" said Kristi Pursell of the Cannon River Watershed Partnership.

"We saw presentations on tile line and stream data collected by St. Olaf College students and professors on Rice Creek's nitrate levels, as well as a joint presentation from local farmer John Becker who shared his history and story of being a cover crop convert alongside Land-o-Lakes SUSTAIN and CFS, who shared how they work in partnership with him to achieve his high TruTerra score. Electro-fishing, insect collecting, and stream table were the final three activities of the day."

fishers and farmers fish

"The event was excellent, and brought together all members of a watershed," said Kristen Dieterman, MPCA project manager for the Cannon River Watershed. "Agency staff, agricultural producers, non-profit organizations, community members, academic institutions, agricultural companies, and many more gathered to learn, converse, and play together to better understand how through the watershed we are all connected and that our actions impact one another and the ecosystem."

Since 2009 Minnesota has been represented on the Fishers and Farmers Partnership steering committee by Steve Sodeman and Jack Lauer. Steve is a farmer, crop consultant, and former Minnesota Corn Growers Association director; Jack is DNR Southern Regional Fisheries Manager in New UIm. Fishers & Farmers has helped fund several projects in Minnesota over the past 10 years, such as 7-Mile Creek, Rice Creek, Rush-Pine, Whitewater, and Root River. Photos by Kristen Dieterman.

Cannon River Watershed Clean-up Sept. 21

The 11th annual Cannon River Watershed Clean-up will be 9 a.m.-1 p.m. launching from these locations: Northfield-Riverside Park, Northfield-Carleton College Arboretum, Faribault-Two Rivers Park, Cannon Falls-Riverside Park, Waterville-Lions Park, Medford-City Park, Owatonna-Morehouse Park, Shields Lake. More info and to sign up.

Comments on Minnesota River Basin studies due Sept. 20

sediment jars minnesota river

While cities and producers across the Minnesota River Basin have made changes to help water quality, the state’s namesake river and its tributaries continue to face several pollution challenges. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and local partners have drafted several studies that identify the pollutant sources, reduction goals, and strategies to get there:

  • Minnesota River and Greater Blue Earth River Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for Total Suspended Solids
  • Minnesota River-Mankato watershed TMDL and Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategies (WRAPS)
  • Watonwan River watershed TMDL and WRAPS
  • Lower Minnesota River watershed TMDL and WRAPS

Altogether, the studies look at dozens of river segments impaired by bacteria, sediment, nutrients and/or chloride as well as 50 lakes with nutrient levels high enough to cause algae. See the stories and web links below for more information.

The studies are open for comment through 4:30 p.m. Sept. 20. The agency is especially interested in comments that focus on policies and practices to expand or implement to reach water quality goals. After the comment period closes, the MPCA will revise the reports according to comments received and then submit them to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for final approval.

For details, please visit:

Ag water quality certification benefits Minnesota River

greg entinger

MPCA Commissioner Laura Bishop, along with MDA Assistant Commissioner Whitney Place presented New Prague area farmer Greg Entinger with an Agricultural Water Quality certificate Aug. 28. The event was in conjunction with a field day to demonstrate ag water quality practices in the Minnesota River Basin. At his 925-acre farm Greg is a proponent of strip tillage, cover crops, intake treatments, sediment retention areas, nutrient management, and other practices that build soil health and reduce erosion. Widespread use of these practices is the goal of a plan to reduce sediment and other pollutants in the Minnesota River and tributaries.

The Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program 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, along with receiving recognition, technical and financial assistance. To date, the MAWQCP has certified 788 producers and 531,087 acres in Minnesota. Photo (L-R): MPCA Commissioner Laura Bishop, Greg Entinger, MDA Assistant Commissioner Whitney Place.

MAWQCP central lakes

College ag program receives water quality certification

Central Lakes College Ag and Energy Center received certification through the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program. The college operates approximately 2,000 acres under research and crop production near Staples. Their main crops are corn, soybeans, barley, and edible beans and they use cover crops, water management, and nutrient/fertilizer management in the operation. Central Lakes College is the first educational institution to become MN Agricultural Water Quality Certified. Photo (L to R): Troy Daniell, Minnesota NRCS State Conservationist; Ron Nelson, CLC Farm Manager; Kari Christiansen, CLC VP of Administrative Services, Hannah Barrett, CLC Research Coordinator; Todd Pollema, CLC Farm Technician and Manure Management Coordinator; Whitney Place, MDA Assistant Commissioner; and Keith Olander, CLC Ag Center Director - Brainerd Dispatch photo.

MSU names Geske director of new ag resources institute

jeremy geske

Jeremy Geske has been named the first director of the newly-formed Institute for Regenerative Resources and AgriSciences at Minnesota State University-Mankato. Geske will lead development and coordination of applied or translational research in areas broadly related to regenerative resources and agri-sciences, including but not limited to, natural resources, environmental science, land stewardship, and renewable energy. He will oversee the Water Resource Center, and also be responsible for planning and launching a new Ag Solutions Center.

This is an intentional direction for MSU, building on its certification in 2015 by the USDA as a Non-land Grant College of Agriculture. The institute is part of the College of Science, Engineering, and Technology, where it will collaborate with others on new directions related to agriculture, food, and natural resources. 

Jeremy's professional experience includes: Rural Conservationist for Hennepin County; Watershed Education Specialist with the Minnesota Agricultural Water Resource Center, Assistant Executive Director for the Minnesota Pork Producers Association, Associate Director of Public Policy with the Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation, and Extension Educator in Dakota County. 

He has served in leadership roles at the state and national levels for the sheep industry and other agricultural organizations. In 2018, he was appointed by USDA Secretary Perdue to the National Sheep Industry Improvement Center Board. He is a past board member for the Minnesota Agricultural and Rural Leadership program. Geske also was appointed by former Governor Pawlenty to serve two terms on the Minnesota Board of Veterinary Medicine. Jeremy and his family manage a sheep farm near New Prague. He has a M.S. in Animal Science and Industry from Kansas State University and B.S. in Animal Science from North Dakota State University. - Minnesota State University news

Livestock and Poultry Learning Center webinar series

Inventories inform nutrient management in watersheds

Nutrient inventories and budgets are valuable tools that can guide decisions for both voluntary and mandatory nutrient management practices from farm to regional scale. Nutrient inventories of various scales provide different perspectives, and there are tradeoffs between scope and detail. This webinar will focus on nitrogen and phosphorus inventories at two watershed scales, and how manure nutrients are incorporated. The webinar will also discuss opportunities to continually improve both the calculation methods and application of the results. Sept. 20, 1:30 p.m. Read more or register for the webinar. Presenters: Robert Sabo (US EPA), Mahmoud Sharara (North Carolina State University), and Erin Cortus (University of Minnesota).

Funding available for sustainable agriculture projects

Farmers and Minnesota nonprofit and educational organizations focused on testing new ideas in sustainable agriculture are encouraged to apply for a Sustainable Agriculture and Demonstration (SustAg) Grant by 4 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2019.

The MDA’s SustAg Program is part of the Agricultural Growth, Research, and Innovation (AGRI) Program, which administers grants to farmers, agribusinesses, schools, and more throughout the state of Minnesota. The AGRI Program exists to advance Minnesota’s agricultural and renewable energy sectors.

SustAg grant projects explore new ways of conserving natural resources, enhancing farm profitability, increasing energy efficiency, and improving life in rural communities.

Applications from farmers receive priority, but the program also funds Minnesota nonprofit and educational organizations if Minnesota farmers are meaningfully involved in the project. Projects last two to three years and may be funded at up to $50,000, with applicants providing a dollar-for-dollar match on amounts above $25,000. A total of $200,000 is available this year.

SustAg grants have funded a wide range of projects; such as exploring farm diversification, cover crops and crop rotation, conservation tillage, and input reduction strategies and alternative energies like wind, methane, and biomass.

Projects are published annually in the MDA’s Greenbook, which provides a summary of each project along with results, management tips, and other resources. For more information and to apply, visit

$1 million available for fertilizer research and outreach

afrec logo

The Agricultural Fertilizer Research and Education Council (AFREC) is requesting proposals for Minnesota-focused fertilizer research and outreach projects. Currently, $1 million in grants is available for research, education and outreach, and for an AFREC research coordinator.

AFREC is a farmer and industry-led program designed to fund research and education on agricultural fertility. AFREC was established by the Minnesota Legislature in 2008 and receives funding through a $0.40 per ton fee on fertilizer sales.

Copies of the Request for Proposals (RFP) for the funding can be obtained by sending an e-mail request to Luan Johnsrud at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture at

Questions regarding this RFP may be directed to Larry Gunderson at or 651-201-6168. Questions will be accepted until Nov. 22, at 4 p.m. Completed proposals must be received per RFP guidelines by Dec. 5 at 3 p.m.

On-going AFREC projects will be given priority for continued funding this cycle. About 25-35% of the funding will be available for new grants. The goal is to have projects selected and grants executed prior to the 2020 crop season. Additional information about AFREC and its past and currently funded projects is available at - Minnesota Dept. of Agriculture news release.

News briefs

What should growers look for in soil health tests?

In this episode of the Nutrient Management Podcast, we discuss soil health tests. What is the consensus definition of soil health? What should growers look for in soil health tests, and how should they go about testing their fields? What research is available in Minnesota tying soil health tests to crop performance and yield? Listen to the podcast: 

Mower, Stearns SWCDs collaborate on UMN soil health research

Mower and Stearns County SWCDs are collaborating with the University of Minnesota (UMN) on a statewide soil health project measuring soil properties under contrasting management systems. The project, which is funded by a Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), will collect soil health indicator data from 26 working farms in four regions: Mower County, the Minnesota River Valley, Stearns County and the Red River Valley. At the end of the project, the partners will have a database of regional soil health measurements, a suite of case studies highlighting farmers who have adopted soil health practices, and a detailed economic analysis of soil health management systems on 10 farms. They will be sharing the results of the work at field days around the state in 2021 and through reports that will be available online. For more information, contact Hava Blair at

NRCS videos available on YouTube

The Minnesota Natural Resources Conservation Service YouTube channel offers a variety of short videos on a wide range of topics, so far including rainfall simulators, grazing cattle on cover crops, high-seeding cover crops over corn, and pollinator habitat. Take a look and subscribe to the Minnesota NRCS YouTube channel here:


Sept. 20: Liepold Farms innovation field day, Okabena.
Sept. 21: Cannon River Watershed clean up, various locations.
Sept. 28: Land Stewardship Project North Star Farm Tour - Soil Health Demonstration, Bentz farm, 30700 Northfield Blvd., Northfield.
Dec. 3-4: Minnesota Milk Expo, Treasure Island Resort and Casino, Welch.
Dec. 8-10: Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Doubletree, Bloomington.
Dec. 13-14: Minnesota State Cattlemen's Association convention, Willmar Conference Center.
Dec. 17-18: Conservation Tillage Conference, Holiday Inn, 75 S. 37th Ave., St. Cloud.
Jan. 22-23: Minnesota Ag Expo, Verizon Center, Mankato.
Jan. 28-29: Minnesota Pork Congress, Minneapolis Convention Center.

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