Byron Township Water Quality Study: Managed Timber to Row Crop Agriculture

Project Details by Fiscal Year
2017 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
$57,640
2016 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
$109,887
2015 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
$11,050
Fund Source
Clean Water Fund
Recipient
Minnesota Department of Agriculture
Recipient Type
State Government
Status
In Progress
Start Date
July 2014
Activity Type
Assessment/Evaluation
Demonstration/Pilot Project
Education/Outreach/Engagement
Technical Assistance
Counties Affected
Cass
Legal Citation / Subdivision
M.L. 2017, Chapter 91, Article 2, Section 3
Appropriation Language

M.L. 2017 (b) $2,085,000 the first year and $2,086,000 the second year are for monitoring and evaluating trends in the concentration of nitrate in groundwater in areas vulnerable to groundwater degradation; promoting, developing, and evaluating regional and crop-specific nutrient best management practices; assessing best management practice adoption; education and technical support from University of Minnesota Extension; grants to support agricultural demonstration and implementation activities; and other actions to protect groundwater from degradation from nitrate. This appropriation is available until June 30, 2022.

Legal Citation / Subdivision
M.L. 2017, Chapter 91, Article 2, Section 3
Appropriation Language

M.L. 2017: b) $2,085,000 the first year and $2,086,000 the second year are for monitoring and evaluating trends in the concentration of nitrate in groundwater in areas vulnerable to groundwater degradation; promoting, developing, and evaluating regional and crop-specific nutrient best management practices; assessing best management practice adoption; education and technical support from University of Minnesota Extension; grants to support agricultural demonstration and implementation activities; and other actions to protect groundwater from degradation from nitrate. This appropriation is available until June 30, 2022.

Legal Citation / Subdivision
M.L. 2015, First Special Session, Chapter 2, Section 2
Appropriation Language

M.L. 2015: (b) $2,586,000 the first year and $2,585,000 the second year are for monitoring and evaluating trends in the concentration of nitrate in groundwater in areas vulnerable to groundwater degradation; monitoring for pesticides when nitrate is detected; promoting, developing, and evaluating regional and crop-specific nutrient best management practices; assessing best management practice adoption; education and technical support from University of Minnesota Extension; and other actions to protect groundwater from degradation from nitrate. This appropriation is available until June 30, 2018.

2017 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
$57,640
Legal Citation / Subdivision
M.L. 2015, First Special Session, Chapter 2, Section 3
Appropriation Language

M.L. 2015: (b) $2,586,000 the first year and $2,585,000 the second year are for monitoring and evaluating trends in the concentration of nitrate in groundwater in areas vulnerable to groundwater degradation; monitoring for pesticides when nitrate is detected; promoting, developing, and evaluating regional and crop-specific nutrient best management practices; assessing best management practice adoption; education and technical support from University of Minnesota Extension; and other actions to protect groundwater from degradation from nitrate. This appropriation is available until June 30, 2018.

2016 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
$109,887
Legal Citation / Subdivision
M.L. 2013, Chapter 137, Article 2, Section 3
Appropriation Language

M.L. 2013: (b) $2,500,000 the first year and $2,500,000 the second year are to increase monitoring and evaluate trends in the concentration of nitrates in groundwater in areas vulnerable to groundwater degradation, including a substantial increase of monitoring of private wells in cooperation with the commissioner of health, monitoring for pesticides when nitrates are detected, and promoting and evaluating regional and crop-specific nutrient best management practices to protect groundwater from degradation.

2015 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
$11,050
Administration costs
$0
Number of full time equivalents funded
see "Statewide Groundwater and Drinking Water Protection"
Measurable Outcome(s)

Measurable outcomes will be reported at the end of the fiscal year

Source of Additional Funds

Material cost for monitoring wells paid for by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The DNR also paid for the monitoring equipment in the wells.

Project Overview

A multi-partner effort has begun to study the amount of nitrate-nitrogen (nitrate) leaching loss that occurs below an agricultural field recently converted from timber land to irrigated row crop production. The landowner has made the property and their staff available to better understand the deep drainage and nitrate leaching dynamics following this type of land use change. This study is unique. It is the first instance in the state, and perhaps nationally, where groundwater impacts from irrigated row crop agriculture on newly converted forest land will be studied long‑term starting from the first year of conversion. Findings from the study will be valuable as additional forest land in Minnesota’s Central Sands region is converted to irrigated crop land – a trend that has started and likely will continue as Potlatch Corporation sells off its forest land holdings in Minnesota. The study will help researchers, ag industry, and government better understand the potential groundwater quality impact of such land use conversions. This study is also unique in its team of talented and dedicated partners: the landowner, Central Lakes College (CLC) in Staples, Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA), Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), University of Minnesota Extension, Northeast Technical Services (NTS), Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). 

About the Issue

If not utilized by plants or retained in soil organic material, nitrate from nitrogen fertilizer or breakdown of organic matter is moved by water down through the soil and into groundwater. Since water moves quickly through sandy soil the potential for nitrate contamination of groundwater on this site, and similar sites, is high. Because of this, the landowner and Central Lakes College (Staples) will be using innovative cropping practices to reduce nitrate loss, including the use of nitrogen fertilizer best management practices, growing low-nitrogen demanding seed potatoes, using slow release nitrogen fertilizers, and using cover crops to capture and hold excess nitrate in the rooting zone until the following season. 

Project Details

Collection of soil water samples with suction tube lysimetersSoil water is being collected weekly from 12 suction tube lysimeters and samples are analyzed for nitrate-nitrogen. The lysimeters are installed at a 4-foot depth to collect soil water that has moved past crop rooting depth and could potentially move down into groundwater. The tips of the lysimeters are made of a porous ceramic material that water flows through when suction is placed on the tubes (diagrams below). The MDA and University of Minnesota Extension installed the lysimeters in June 2014, and monitoring started following the installation.Monitoring wellsIn support of this field study, the DNR installed seven shallow monitoring wells around the field perimeter in early November 2014. These wells will enable us to better understand the movement of shallow groundwater below this field and also provide access to measure the nitrate concentration of this water throughout the year.  Monthly groundwater sample collection for nitrate concentration began in December 2014. For more information, please contact MDA Staff Ryan Perish (218-898-0002, ryan.perish@state.mn.us) or Luke Stuewe (218-846-7425, luke.stuewe@state.mn.us).

Project Manager
First Name
Ryan
Last Name
Perish
Organization Name
Minnesota Department of Agriculture
Street Address
Central Lakes College, Ag Center, 1830 Airport Road
City
Staples
State
MN
Zip Code
56479
Phone
(218) 898-0002
Email
Ryan.Perish@state.mn.us