Wisconsin and Minnesota Discovery Farms programs working together for water quality

The Discovery Farms programs in Wisconsin and Minnesota started working collaboratively several years ago. This collaboration has ensured that the three pillars of the Discovery Farms program, farmer leadership, credible research, and effective communication, transferred from Wisconsin across the river into Minnesota.

One of the main goals of working together is to collect edge-of-field surface runoff and tile flow water quality data using similar methods. Because similar methods are used to collect this data in Wisconsin and Minnesota, the datasets can then be combined for data and statistical analysis. Analysis of edge-of-field water quality data is much more powerful with more fields and more site years.

The types of farming systems monitored in each state complement each other. Wisconsin Discovery Farms research has focused primarily on forage systems with manure as a main nutrient source. While Minnesota Discovery Farms research has mainly focused on grain systems with a mix of manure and fertilizer as a nutrient source. Combining both datasets allows for information on more farming systems within the Discovery Farms program and prevents duplication of research efforts.

In the next three years, the Wisconsin and Minnesota programs will be working even more closely because of a recently received Conservation Innovation Grant from the United States Department of Agriculture – Natural Resources Conservation Service. The title of the project is “Developing Diagnostics to Improve Water Quality and Soil Health on Tile Drained Lands in Minnesota and Wisconsin.” This project will allow Discovery Farms programs in both states to continue efforts to identify the timing and mechanisms of soil and nutrient loss to tile drainage systems.

This article originally appeared in the latest UW Discovery Farms newsletter. If you would like to read more from the newsletter please click here.

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