The Minnesota Department of Agriculture and Board of Water and Soil Resources announced that their Root River Field to Stream Partnership with local farmers is reducing soil loss and protecting water quality. Nearly 100 percent of farmers in the Root River study area have participated in a field walkover to identify those areas most susceptible to sediment and nutrient loss. In just two years, more than 60 percent of those farmers have installed or fixed conservation practices in their fields to reduce these losses.
“It will take unique approaches to protect our water and soil in Minnesota,” said Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson. “The Root River Field to Stream Partnership is one of those approaches that exemplifies how farmers and government can work together on a field by field basis to identify and mitigate problem areas on the landscape. When we come together to focus on our valuable natural resources, we can accomplish great things.”
As a result of the field walkovers, a total of 40 new conservation projects have been completed with several more projects planned through 2019. Completed projects include the construction of more than 65,000 feet of grassed waterways, 11 water and sediment control basins, 100 acres of highly erodible cropland converted to Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) pollinator habitat, 200 acres of cover crops, rehabilitation of a large flood/sediment retention structure, and feedlot/manure storage improvements.
“This project exemplifies where local conservation partners like Soil and Water Conservation Districts excel,” said Board of Water and Soil Resources Executive Director John Jaschke. “They know the landscape, understand the importance of agriculture to the local communities, and are able to make the connection between what the data is telling us, what is happening on the ground, and how to find solutions that work for everyone involved.”
The work is the result of strong relationships with area farmers and an intense surface and groundwater-monitoring program. Seven years of baseline water quality data has allowed researchers to identify the critical timing of loss as well as the amount of sediment and nutrients leaving fields. Water quality measurements are taken at both the edge of agricultural fields and in nearby streams.
Monitoring will continue over the next several years to evaluate the effects of these conservation practices at both the field and small watershed scales.
Clean Water Fund grants from the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) combined with the federal Environmental Quality Incentives Program provided cost-share funding to support these practices. Soil and Water Conservation Districts and Natural Resources Conservation Services offices from Houston, Fillmore and Mower counties provide technical and administrative assistance. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) provides program coordination and data analysis.