Grassland ecosystems evolved to depend on periodic disturbances, such as fire and grazing, to maintain their health and stability. Periodic disturbances help control invasive species, add nutrients back into the soil, germinate plant seeds, enhance wildlife habitat, and more. In Minnesota habitat managers have used fire as a disturbance tool for decades but the use of grazing has been much rarer, mostly because of a lack of necessary infrastructure such as fencing.
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) has partnered with the East Otter Tail Soil and Water Conservation District (EOT SWCD) to carry out a series of workshops and expand programs that promote proper water and nitrogen management.
Funding supports an Irrigation Specialist to develop guidance and provide education on irrigation and nitrogen best management practices (BMPs). In this position, Dr. Vasu Sharma provides direct support to irrigators on issues of irrigation scheduling and soil water monitoring. She is collaborating on the development of new irrigation scheduling tools that help irrigators manage water and nitrogen resources more precisely. These tools help reduce nitrogen leaching losses in irrigated cropping systems.
The Minnesota Ag Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP) is a voluntary opportunity for farmers and agricultural landowners to take the lead on implementing conservation practices that protect water quality. Those who implement and maintain approved conservation practices will be certified and in turn obtain regulatory certainty for a period of ten years. This program will help address concerns about changing regulatory requirements from multiple state and federal agencies.