Basin Alliance for the Lower Mississippi in Minnesota for August 2009

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					                                           BALMM Currents
                                           Basin Alliance for the Lower Mississippi in Minnesota
                                           (BALMM) Update
                                                                                                                 August 2009

Next BALMM                                 New look for newsletter
meeting:                                   To achieve consistency in all Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA)
August 19                                  publications, basin newsletters such as BALMM Currents, are using the
                                           same layout template. Call or email Basin Manager Norman Senjem with
BALMM                                      comments and suggestions: 507-206-2655 or
will meet
Aug. 19, from 9 a.m. to noon, at
the Minnesota Pollution Control            Technology helping agriculture and water quality
Agency office in Rochester,                Thanks to Denton Bruening, some of us who thought we “knew
18 Wood Lake Drive Southeast.              agriculture” a decade ago are discovering how much has changed, and
9:00   Isotopic Tracers of Nitrogen        starting to ponder what it means for how we deal with this sector in the
       and Food Webs in Streams:           realm of water quality management. We’ve lined up presenters at the Aug.
       Dr. Stephanie Schmidt, St.          19 BALMM meeting to share their views of how a changing agriculture
       Olaf College
                                           might require fresh approaches, or open
9:30   A Decade of Change                  new possibilities, for healing agricultural
       in Agriculture: Denton              watersheds.
       Bruening, Minnesota Dept.
       of Agriculture                      First, who’s Denton? He’s the Minnesota
                                           Department of Agriculture’s “farm technology
9:45   Integrating for Reduced
       Environmental Impacts:              wonk,” a southwest Minnesota farm boy who
       David Legvold, Northfield           has honed his knowledge with hundreds of
       area farmer                         on-farm interviews on nitrogen, pesticides
10:15 Break                                — you name it — for more than a decade.
                                           Correction. Make that agricultural technology
10:30 Brave New World of 21st                                                                 With technology, agriculturists
                                           wonk — because his message has to do with
      Century Agriculture: Russell                                                            can map the phosphorus
      Johnson, Monsanto Traits
                                           more than farms. It concerns the growing role
                                                                                              concentrations in a watershed,
      Representative                       of input providers, and the lessening role of      enabling the fine-tuning of
                                           Extension, in providing advice to farmers on       fertilizer applications.
11:00 Integrating Water Quality
                                           how to grow crops.
      Concerns into High-Tech
      Farming: Chuck Wagner,               It also includes the shifting, conglomerating world of Big Ag — a handful of
      Central Valley Co-op in              global manufacturers who are not just making new products, but who are
      Owatonna                             combining genetics and biochemistry to develop technology platforms such
11:30 Group discussion                     as “triple stacked hybrids” of corn to resist drought, ward off root worms,
Noon Adjourn                               and allow application of glyphosate to burn down weeds while leaving the
                                           corn or soybean plant unharmed..
                                           Add to all that, which is not exactly new, but pretty recent, the widespread
                                           use of yield monitors on combines, automatic steering, and global
                                                                                                     Continued on page 2

Study revealed top sources,                  Continued from page 1
channels of conservation
information                                  positioning systems, not to mention on-the-go nitrate sensors, and you
                                             have the ability to target field operations precisely based on topography,
Agri-chemical dealers are                    soil type, drainage factors, and sensitive areas such as sinkholes and riparian
among the top sources for                    corridors. What kind of field operations? Nutrient application rates, plant
conservation information,                    populations. Denton, help me out here.
according to a 1999 study that
included 551 farmers in the                  Well, Denton has agreed to help us out here — at the next BALMM meeting.
Minnesota River Valley. The                  He will give a shortened version of the presentation he made earlier this
Minnesota farmers identified                 month to the Southeast Minnesota Water Resources Board.
the following as their most used             Why shortened? So we can fit in some real life examples of what Denton is
sources of information about                 telling us. Starting with ...
conservation:                                Managing farm systems to reduce impact to the environment
•	 Agri-chemical	dealer                      David Legvold, Northfield area farmer and former director of the Cannon
•	 Farm	Service	Agency                       River Watershed Partnership, has devoted much thought and attention to
•	 Farm	cooperatives                         how to raise traditional crops with modern technology with reduced soil
                                             erosion and nutrient losses to surface or ground water. Artificial drainage —
•	 Farm	implement	dealers
                                             often called tiling — is part and parcel of the system he will describe, which
•	 Natural	Resources	                        includes very little to no tillage, low manure application rates using residue-
   Conservation Service                      saving application methods, and judicious use of commercial fertilizer.
In the same study, Minnesota                 Plus — and this is a work in progress — water storage integrated with the
farmers identified the following             drainage system to offset hydrologic effects and mitigate nutrient losses.
as their preferred channels for              Brave new world of 21st Century agriculture
conservation information:
                                             Russell Johnson, Monsanto Traits Representative from Rochester, will lay
•	 Farm magazines                            out the key elements of modern farm planning:
•	 Radio programs                            •	 Technology	packages	of	seed/chemistry	supported	by	field	mapping,	
•	 On-farm tours                                site-specific field operations and application rates.
•	 Farm shows                                •	 Data	generated	from	yield	monitors	used	on	hundreds	of	farmers	to	help	
•	 Demonstration farms                          evaluate alternative varieties and hybrids, plant populations, etc.
                                             •	 Field	mapping	with	soil	type	and	micro-watershed	contours	for	planning	
“Preferred sources and channels of soil         nutrient application rates and drainage systems.
and water conservation information           Integrating water quality concerns into high-tech farming
among farmers in three Midwestern
U.S. watersheds,” by Mark Tucker             Next question: How can dealer agronomists use today’s technology to address
and Ted Napier of The Ohio State             water quality concerns in crop management plans? Here are a few topics we’ll
University, Agriculture Ecosystems and       ask Chuck Wagner from Central Valley Co-op in Owatonna, to address:
Environment, August 2001
                                             •	 Setbacks	from	streams	for	atrazine,	manure	spreading.
                                             •	 Use	of	grass	buffers	along	streams	and	ditches.
                                             •	 Selection	and	variation	of	fertilizer	and	manure	application	rates.	
                                                Example: dealing with sensitive areas with low P rates, setbacks from
                                                streams or drainage ditches or surface tile intakes.
                                             •	 Use	of	cover	crops	—	after	canning	crop	harvest,	for	example.	
                                             •	 Using	watershed	mapping	technology	to	plan	drainage	and	storage	or	
                                                treatment of runoff water.          Lower Mississippi Basin Update 8-09                        2
Bears repeating:                             Using isotopic tracers to describe food webs, trace N sources
Everyone is entitled to his own              Stephanie Schmidt, a St. Olaf College professor, will report on her use
opinion, but not his own facts.              of isotopes in two different ways: 1) to describe food webs and 2) to trace
                                             sources of nitrogen in streams. Here’s a preview of her talk: “Several studies
         — Daniel Patrick Moynihan           have used the 15-N of aquatic macroinvertebrates as an indicator of N
                                             source. So we’ve collected herbivorous bugs from our 10 sites and will run
                                             those for nitrogen isotopes. However, a more accepted and precise method
In the news:                                 is to measure the 15-N and 18-O of nitrate from stream water. Unfortunately,
                                             this method is complex and rather expensive. We have enough money to run
On July 29, the StarTribune                  at least one sample from each of our 10 sites for this analysis. And once we
reported that the chairperson                have the instrument up and running, we’ll look at adding this analysis to our
of the Zumbro Watershed                      repertoire.
Partnership has filed a
complaint with Olmsted County                “With both methods (bugs and nitrate isotopes), we could potentially
on the lack of buffer strips along           detect	the	following	sources:		soils,	fertilizer,	manure/sewage,	atmospheric	
the river. See the story at: www.            deposition. These sources tend to have unique 15-N and 18-O values, though              it can be a bit muddy. At this point, I don’t know of any methods that could
html?elr=KArksUUUycaEacyU.                   separate	manure/sewage	by	isotopes	alone.	I’ve	been	communicating	with	
                                             molecular biologists and chemists at Olaf about potentially doing some
                                             compound-specific work — perhaps looking at proteins in the water. But this
                                             is only in the initial stages.”
Send comments and items
for future editions to BALMM
Currents editor:                             Online guide now available for conservation funding
Norman Senjem                                This new online guide is intended for farmers, and those who work with
MPCA                                         them designing conservation practices. It complements, but does not
Phone: 507-206-2655                          replace, local expertise available to landowners through local SWCD offices
Email: norman.senjem@state.                  and other organizations.
                                             A short description of the Minnesota Conservation Funding Guide online tool
                                             and a direct link to the tool itself are both found in the electronic postcard
                                             In addition, a short note to conservation professionals about the Conservation
                                             Funding Guide is available at
                                             Barbara	Weisman	is	available	to	give	a	short	presentation/demo	about	the	
                                             tool to BALMM anytime, including if time allows, discussion on ways it could
                                             enhance various southeast water quality initiatives. The Zumbro Watershed
                                             Partnership folks are already familiar with the tool because they provided
                                             substantial input into its development as part of a Conservation Partnership
                                             Initiative grant several years ago.
                                             Finally, we have ample quantities of the postcard. If SWCDs or others want
                                             to place a small stack of these postcards on their office counters, I can mail
                                             them a stack. For more information, contact Barbara Weisman at 651-201-
                                             6631          Lower Mississippi Basin Update 8-09                            3

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