||The Mission of the Pope Soil and Water Conservation District is to promote, guide, and provide technical assistance for conservation of land and water through project implementation.
NITRATE RESEARCH CONDUCTED AT ROSHOLT RESEARCH FARM
Luke Johnson - Hydrologist Intern
Luke Johnson was recently hired by the Pope Soil and Water Conservation District as the Hydrologist Intern at the Rosholt Research Farm near Westport, Minnesota. He is from Alexandria Minnesota, and graduated from Jefferson High School in 2009. He attended college at Bethel University, and graduated in December of 2013 with a BA in Biology. Some of his hobbies include golfing, fishing, and hunting. He will work on this project through the end of the summer and the data that he is collecting will be important for understanding water quality impacts on specific soils.
The purpose of the study in Westport is to provide a better understanding of nitrogen fertilizer management and the water quality impacts on irrigated, sandy soils. The study will assess nitrogen loss resulting from different nitrogen fertilizer application rates, application timing, application methods and slow release nitrogen fertilizer products all under irrigation.
Root zone water is collected from a series of lysimeters (a porous ceramic tipped PVC pipe placed about 4 feet deep in the root zone). Lysimeter sample lines are enclosed in protective PVC pipe and buried in trenches below the surface so normal tillage and other farming operations can be performed. Water samples are collected weekly during the entire growing season and analyzed on site using a Hach Ultraviolet Spectrophotometer. The Hach machine analyzes the nitrate concentration in parts per million (ppm). Water volumes collected from the eight drain gauges provide information about water flow through the soil root zone. All of the data that is collected over the growing season is sent to the University of Minnesota to help revise nitrogen fertilizer recommendations for irrigated coarse-textured (sandy) soils.
There are risks associated with high levels of nitrates in the groundwater that directly affect our everyday lives. High levels of nitrates that get into our streams and lakes can cause overstimulated growth of aquatic plants. This in turn can possibly take up all of the dissolved oxygen that is contained within the water and cause large fish kills. High levels of nitrates in the groundwater can also be harmful to humans and livestock when consumed in concentrated amounts. It can occur naturally in groundwater at levels typically in the range of 0 to 3 parts per million (ppm). Human activities such as sewage disposal, livestock production, and lawn and crop fertilization can potentially elevate the level of nitrate in groundwater. Nitrate has been found above the 10 ppm drinking water standard in Minnesota groundwater (specifically drinking water), mainly in areas of sandy and rocky soil that allows for fast movement of water through the soil. Infants younger than 6 months are extremely susceptible to the harmful effects of high levels of nitrates in the water.
A couple of important events will be held this summer. The first event is sponsored by the Pope Soil and Water Conservation District and Pope County Land and Resource Management office to offer free water testing at the Pope County Fair on August 2nd in the Industrial Arts Building from Noon till 4 p.m.
A field day will also be held on August 7th in partnership with Prairie Lakes Coop to share with the public the research that is being conducted at the farm in Westport.
This program has been funded by a grant to the Pope SWCD from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. The current grant expires in 2015. This is a unique public private partnership effort. The following agencies have partnered on this project to make it a success: Pope SWCD, Stearns SWCD, Minnesota Department of Agriculture, University of Minnesota, and Prairie Lakes Coop.
Poster Contest Results Are In
This year teachers and students were invited to participate in the Annual Poster Contest put on the by The Pope County Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD). With this year’s theme being “Dig Deeper: Mysteries in the Soil”, teachers and students of three local elementary schools (Belgrade Brooten Elrosa (BBE), Minnewaska Elementary, and Glacial Hills Elementary) were challenged to harvest their creative skills by creating informative posters that highlight some facts about soil. There were a total of three winners from each school along with another three overall winners for the County. See Poster Contest results.
Environmental improvements are adding up in Pope County due to Legacy funding Glenwood, Minn.— Nearly 15 environmental projects have been funded in Pope County on behalf of an application written by the Pope Soil and Water Conservation District thanks to the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment – and the improvements will start to add up. The Pope SWCD received notice in late January that they would be receiving $126,900 in funding. This funding will help address some of the erosion concerns that were a result of a storm event from June 2013. Projects that will be eligible for the cost share assistance will include: grade stabilization and water and sediment control basins. If you are interested in these types of practices and have erosion issues, contact Pope SWCD staff.
Through the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources’ (BWSR) Clean Water Fund grant program, nearly $60 million has been invested in “on-the-ground” projects, where citizens and local governments are installing conservation practices to improve the quality in our lakes, rivers, wetlands and groundwater.
Holly Kovarik, District Manager said investments made through these grant programs are noticeably improving Pope County lakes and rivers. These projects will be implemented in the next two years.
“Because of the Legacy funding, we’ve been able to complete more conservation projects than ever before. The lakes and rivers in Pope County are being cleaned up or protected and the funding is creating jobs and improving property values. It’s a win-win situation,” Kovarik said.
Irrigation Scheduling Helps Conserve Groundwater
Recently there has been a lot of information and attention brought forth by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) regarding groundwater and its sustainability.
Many of you may have attended the public meeting that was held on February 26, 2014 at the Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa High School Auditorium. The Pope Soil and Water Conservation District staff and some of the board members also attended this meeting. The Bonanza Valley area has been selected as a pilot in establishing a Groundwater Management Area (GWMA). The DNR has established this GWMA to help improve groundwater appropriation decisions and help groundwater users better understand and plan for future development opportunities.
So what does that mean for us here in Pope County? Almost half of the County is included in the Bonanza Valley GWMA and there has been a large increase in the number of new well permits requested. These have been primarily for new irrigation systems. A committee has been established to advise and help the DNR develop a process to address the concerns focusing on sustainability. There are more users of our groundwater resources and increased scrutiny due in part to this. This process will unfold over a year and will include multiple meetings.
The Pope SWCD Board feels very strongly about participating in these meetings and would encourage you to share your thoughts with staff or board members on this process. We plan to submit formal comments on the plan and process as it is developed. Ultimately this plan belongs to the DNR and they are the regulating agency.
The Pope SWCD plays a part in groundwater conservation implementation and education efforts. One of the groundwater programs we have been implementing is the Irrigation Scheduling Program which we have offered since 2005.
Now may be the time to add this service to your operation. This program is designed to give the producer a second opinion on in-field moisture status that can assist the producer on when to irrigate. The decision to irrigate is still the producers. The producer will need to notify the SWCD office of weekly irrigation and rainfall amounts, emergence dates, crops planted, spraying dates, and harvesting dates. The technician from the SWCD will provide:
1. Weekly visits to check soil moisture
2. Furnish weekly computer soil moisture graphs
3. Conduct Irrigation System Uniformity checks (as needed)
4. Provide a year-end summary (graph) showing irrigation totals, rainfall amounts, and potential leaching events (This information will help with DNR Waters Year End Reporting Requirements.)
The fee is $250 per field per year. The SWCD specializes in voluntary programs and efforts by producers and has had a proven track record of success in doing so. This Irrigation Scheduling Program provides you with an additional tool not only to document the water use that is necessary for the crop to gain the best yield but also keeps the water use and conservation of it in mind when it is possible.
Stop by the Pope SWCD office to visit with Kelly to sign up or learn more about this program.
Pope SWCD Starts Shoreline Program
Native shoreline habitat restorations are an excellent alternative tool compared to rock riprap to prevent lakeshore erosion, beautify shorelines, and generate habitat for pollinator species and fish nesting zones when aquatic plants are used. Native plants, when compared to traditional turf grasses have much deeper and more complex root structures; this is what gives natives the power to fight erosion and also to filter out harmful algae causing nutrients from lawn care products.
The District is currently working on building a shoreline program here in Pope County. There is great potential with the vast number of shoreline miles and lake residences located within the county. There are currently 4 landowners with projects underway from a current grant. We have also submitted a grant application to the DNR for shoreline projects for 2014 and 2015. We are currently seeking applicants to generate a list of interested individuals for the potential funding. If you are interested in native restoration please stop in or call us at 320-634-5327.
Photo taken from DNR Restore Your Shore website
County Comprehensive Water Plan Approved
The Pope County Comprehensive Water Plan was recently approved by the Board of Water and Soil Resources. This is the plan that will guide the next five years of project and program implementation by local agencies in Pope County. A full copy of the plan is available here…