The 2018 monitoring season marks the fourth year of the Discovery Farms Nitrogen Use Efficiency (NUE) Project. While finishing our third and final season of monitoring NUE in the Elk Creek and Northeast regions, we are bringing the project to three new counties: Sauk, Pepin and Dunn. In these counties we have launched new partnerships with county Land Conservation Departments, UW-Extension and Natrural Resources Conservation Service, in order to better utilize local resources, develop close relationships with participating farmers and foster the sustainability of the NUE project.
Sauk County has a diverse landscape with steep slopes and narrow valleys in the western half of the county and gently rolling hills and the sandy outwash floodplain of the Wisconsin River along the southern and eastern borders. Dairy farming is still prominent on the landscape and many cash grain and other livestock farms can be found throughout the county. Corn, soybeans and alfalfa dominate the crop fields but one can find some specialty crops, as well as cover crops in the fall after harvest. Sauk County wanted to be involved in the NUE project so farmers could get recommendations that were suited to their farms. The project is being implemented on six farms in Sauk County of which none are dairy farms and only half utilize manure. We think the farmers will feel more empowered to make changes and feel more confident in the fertilizer and manure rates they are applying once they see the results. After the results are analyzed and summarized, we plan to share the information with other farmers in Sauk County and encourage more farmer-led, on-farm research projects. Written by Melissa Keenan and Brian Sadler, Sauk County Conservation, Planning, & Zoning.
Pepin County has been aware of the work that Discovery Farms has conducted around the state and based on the interest of the farmers and the opportunity to participate, we all were intrigued to see what the project has to offer. Pepin County has eight farms participating in the Discovery Farms NUE project. Those farms consist of dairy operations that vary in size and management, as well as cash crop operations. The farms consist of varying soil types (sands to silt loams) and topography, with some fields under irrigation. Pepin County and the farmers participating were interested in the Discovery Farms NUE project because of a growing concern for groundwater nitrate contamination. These farms not only want to make sure that their use of nitrogen is meeting their economic and agronomic goals, but they also want to make sure that they are doing what is necessary to protect the groundwater resource of the community. The Discovery Farms NUE project will provide a valuable tool to help achieve those goals. Written by Chase Cummings, Pepin Co Land Conservation.
Dunn County UW-Extension, Natural Resources Conservation Service and Land & Water Conservation Division offices are excited to partner with UW Discovery Farms on the NUE project. Eight Dunn County farmers have agreed to participate in 2018 with an even split of livestock and crop farmers. Soil type varies for these farmers located throughout the county, ranging from sandy outwash to silt loam. Topography in the county ranges from flat, wide-open fields in the eastern and southern areas to rough, hilly terrain in the western and northern areas. Dunn County farmers were interested in this project for many reasons, including land use activitys’ contribution to high nitrate levels in groundwater as well as the economic impact on grain yield in relation to applied N inputs. Participants are looking forward to evaluating their current nitrogen management practices in order to fine-tune their corn for corn grain or corn silage cropping systems. Written by Katie Wantoch, Dunn County UW-Extension.