The Cedar River Watershed Partnership is a unique public-private-nonprofit collaboration providing farmers with tools and resources to help them adopt new farm management strategies that improve the soil, water and economic health of their farms and address water quality challenges in the Cedar River Watershed.
Partners work with farmers to identify the most impactful and practical farming strategies and provide the tools and resources to help implement changes with the goal of reaching certification through the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program.
This effort minimizes red-tape for farmers by coordinating guidance, services and resources amongst partners so no matter who the farmer contacts, they can get the support they need.
Farm Management Practices
Cedar River Watershed partners work with farmers to identify the most impactful and practical farming strategies. What are some of those strategies?
Farm Management Practices
- Cover crops
- Grid sampling / Soil sampling
- Nitrogen Stabilizers
- Split Application
- Variable rate technology (VRT)
Cover crops improve soil health by adding organic matter to the soil and add nitrogen in a slow-release way that plants can handle, leading to less fertilizer waste. Cover crops can also act as mulches if managed correctly, improve the physical properties of soil physical properties, and attract beneficial insects and pollinators to your garden.
Grid sampling / Soil sampling
Soil sampling is used to determine the average nutrient status and to provide some measure of nutrient variability in a field. Grid sampling is a form of soil sampling that focuses on specific areas within fields. Both methods look for trends in soil fertilizer levels to other variables to precisely apply inputs.
Nitrogen stabilizer products help prevent nitrogen fertilizer loss while increasing how efficiently your crops use the fertilizer. Nitrogen stabilizers inhibit specific parts of the nitrogen cycle that lead to losses.
No-till farming is exactly what it sounds like, growing crops without disturbing the soil through conventional tillage. It increases the water that infiltrates the soil and the retention of organic matter while reducing soil erosion.
Split nitrogen application, the practice of dividing total nitrogen application into two or more treatments, which synchronizes nitrogen supply with a plant’s ability to use those nutrients, can help enhance efficiency, promote optimum yields and minimize nutrient loss.
Strip-tilling disturbs only the portion of the soil that will contain a seed row. It combines the benefits of conventional tillage with the soil-protecting advantages of no-till to the portions of your field not used for planting. Special equipment is required for strip tilling.
Variable rate technology (VRT)
Variable Rate Technologies allow for automated application of inputs on the landscape, including fertilizers, chemicals and seed. These technologies use data from maps, sensors and GPS to optimize crop production.
Cedar River Watershed Partners
Convened and managed by Minnesota nonprofit Environmental Initiative, the Cedar River Watershed Partnership is a collaboration of these partners.
Central Farm Service is the leading full-service agricultural cooperative in the Cedar River area and the provider of precision agriculture service Central AdvantageGS. This service, and associated product NitrateNow, helps farmers understand their soil fertility, minimize the application of crop inputs and improve yields. This approach applies the right amount of nutrients when and where the crops need it, which increases nutrient use efficiency, reduces potential loss into the watershed and makes sure farmers are not paying for inputs that aren’t needed. Data is collected, analyzed and compiled each year to improve the accuracy and effectiveness of recommendations. Over 250,000 acres and 250 operations in southern Minnesota are enrolled in Central AdvantageGS and NitrateNow.
Hormel Foods is a global branded food company. Its brands include SKIPPY®, SPAM®, Hormel® Natural Choice®, Applegate®, Justin’s®, Wholly Guacamole®, Hormel® Black Label®, Columbus® and many more. Hormel Foods has been named one of the 100 Best Corporate Citizens by Corporate Responsibility Magazine for 10 consecutive years, and focuses its sustainability initiatives on five key areas: the environment, animal welfare, products, people and communities. In addition to its goal to reduce water use at its manufacturing facilities by 10 percent by 2020, Hormel Foods has further demonstrated its commitment to protecting natural resources by joining the Ceres and World Wildlife Fund’s AgWater Challenge, developing a sustainable agriculture policy, completing a high-level water risk assessment of its largest direct suppliers and participating in the Cedar River Watershed Partnership.
Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN focuses on driving on-farm improvements, protecting natural resources and helping to ensure the health and productivity of every acre, for every farmer, season after season. Based on current farming practices and business goals, their retail agronomy team partners with farmers to identify additional approaches to increase productivity and profitability potential while also improving the quality of each farm’s soil, water and air resources. Join CFS and Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN to take advantage of this farmer-owned platform for driving, capturing and sharing practical and comprehensive sustainability practices.
Mower SWCD is focused on helping farmers understand and implement new practices and improvements that mitigate erosion, improve soil health and address water quantity and quality problems in the Cedar River Watershed. The SWCD can help farmers design and incorporate soil health and water quality practices (cover crops, conservation tillage, permanent vegetative cover, etc.) into their farming operations. Technical assistance is available for farmers, and the SWCD will help them access state and federal cost-share programs for the implementation of new practices. Mower SWCD is also a local partner of the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program and will help farmers evaluate the water quality risks on their farms.
Designed to provide growers with personalized assistance to address potential risks to water quality on a site-specific basis, MAWQCP is a voluntary opportunity to obtain technical and financial assistance in implementing farmer-selected practices. The first step is to evaluate farms for water quality risks, working locally with certification professionals at CFS, SUSTAIN, or Mower SWCD. Farmers who implement and maintain practices that mitigate water quality risks will be certified and deemed in compliance with any new water quality regulations for 10 years from the date of certification. Farmers seeking MAWQCP-certification receive exclusive access to dedicated pools of financial assistance from state and federal conservation programs. These include a special EQIP sign-up for MAWQCP applicants that pays at a higher rate than general EQIP, and a financial assistance grant from MDA for up to $5,000 to install conservation practices and offset management expenses.