Developing local partnerships for edge of field water quality monitoring

Developing local partnerships for edge of field water quality monitoring

Since the beginning of the program, UW Discovery Farms (UWDF) has collected, analyzed and distributed on-farm, water quality monitoring information to farmers, farm advisors, agency personnel, researchers and interested stakeholders throughout Wisconsin and other states.

Our work has brought us to meet and establish strong relationships with people and organizations throughout the state with similar interests of protecting water quality while maintaining farm productivity and profitability. We are interested in building upon these relationships and establishing new partnerships to maximize the capability and impact of research efforts.

As a statewide program, we strive to reach and represent as many areas in the state as possible in order to provide a robust sampling of data to our audience. Traditionally, UWDF has provided the man power to collect samples at all of our monitoring site locations. This method is effective however, not always the most efficient as it creates many hours on the road and requires staff to be located throughout the state.

In 2017, our steering committee decided to offer a Request for Collaborations and Partnerships (RFCP) in order to reach new project areas and facilitate partnerships. An open invitation to all with an interest in agriculture and water quality to submit a proposal to work with UWDF was extended.

“We are excited about establishing new project areas and collaborating partners through this RFCP process,” says UW Discovery Farms Co-Director Eric Cooley, “This will allow us to both provide farmer-led research in areas of the state that were limited by proximity of Discovery Farms staff to perform the research as well as provide enhanced cooperative learning and outreach with our local partners.”

Discovery Farms received multiple proposals, and throughout the month of May, met in the proposed project areas with partners.

Agricultural Producers of Lake Redstone Producers and partners in this watershed group realize that taking the steps to regenerate soil in the watershed will not only improve their agricultural production, but help meet water quality goals. This project is looking to evaluate interseeding tillage radish into corn early in the season as a companion crop and phosphorus injection among other innovative practices.

Antigo Flats Producer Group The Antigo Flats comprises an area of 70,000 acres in north central Wisconsin. Typical crops grown in this area include potatoes rotated with snap beans, corn (grain and silage), soybeans, oats, wheat, barley and alfalfa. The group is interested in documenting P loss from runoff events, learning about stream flow, reducing P loads to the Spring Brook and Eau Claire Watersheds and evaluating the impact of in-field actions on water quality.

Farmers of the Door-Kewaunee Watershed Demonstration Farm Network (DK Demo Farms) Participants in this network are seeking cropping systems that reduce surface runoff of manure, reducing the risk of manure reaching groundwater and improving soil health. They are hoping to evaluate how changes in farming practices (cover crops, reduced tillage, manure, crop rotations, etc.) impact soil organic matter and runoff potential on tight clay soils.

Farmers of the Mill Creek Watershed Council care about soil, water and farmers. Cover crops and no-till are management practices that farmers are hoping will reduce phosphorus loss entering Mill Creek. They hope to determine if these best management practices are effective in their area with a relatively flat landscape.

Farmers for the Upper Sugar River is interested in further understanding water quality trends and their relationship to agricultural land use. Farmers in this watershed are looking to try new conservation practices including cover crops, no-till and manure injection. Farmers of the Upper Sugar River work in tandem with the Upper Sugar River Watershed Association towards their mutual goals.

The quality of proposals received, and people involved are truly impressive. We are confident that the project areas selected will bring new and novel information to our dataset.

The UWDF Steering Committee will be making final selections to install new monitoring sites in three project areas. New monitoring sites will be in operation October 2018. §