Outside Resources

Featured Research & Extension Articles
Turtle Creek TMDL

The TMDL for E.coli in Turtle Creek has been drafted by the North Dakota Department of Health.  This comprehensive study of E.Coli content uses data from the study period of the watershed project (2010-2011) to document E.coli levels that represent a health risk to those who are exposed directly to waters in Turtle Creek.
The TMDL also details some of the things watershed producers and land owners can do to improve water quality.  The best part is that these practices will go a long way toward solving not only the E.coli problems in the creek, but also the nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment problems too.

It is recognized that finances can be a major hurdle preventing producers from implementing the very solutions listed in the TMDL.  This is the whole reason why we have a cost share program.  Put differently, we want to help you pay for things that help with water quality.  Plain and simple.

The draft TMDL is open to public comment is open for public comment until 10/9/2014.  You can submit your comments to the North Dakota Department of Health Division of Water Quality.

Periodic Table of 
Cover Crops

Cover crops are gaining momentum in the word of crop production due to their soil health benefits.  Perhaps the most appealing aspect of cover crops to producers in our area is the diversity of issues it can help with.  
Are you looking to increase the nitrogen content in your soil?  Cover crops can help with that.  
Are you looking to curtail salinity issues by removing moisture in low areas?  Cover crops can help with that.  
Are you looking prevent overland erosion between growing seasons?  Cover crops can help with that.  
Are you looking to improve soil health by adding biodiversity to your soils?  Cover crops can help with that.
When addressing a specific concern, it's important to choose your cover crop mix accordingly.  Luckily, the Area 4 Research farm has done a lot of this work for you.  It'll help you choose a cover crop mix that addresses your site specific concerns.

All About Soil Compaction

It's finally that season where producers are our in their fields, ranges, and pastures.  It's a busy time for everybody.  It's also a time where our soils are most prone to compaction; they're wet, they're lacking in vegetation, and they're necessarily subjected to a lot of overburden in the form of machines and livestock.  

While some compaction is inevitable, a lot of producers are employing innovative tactics to mitigate compaction.  The more compaction you can avoid today, the more productive your land will be for years to come.

Good luck to all of you this planting season!  May your yields be as high as your cost of operations are low.

A Few Things Crop Producers Can Do

The days are getting brighter and even though it might not feel like spring, we're all thinking more and more about the summer.

In the first year of the Turtle Creek Watershed Project, many crop producers may be looking for ideas.  The following article by the Iowa State University Extension Service lists a few common management practices that help improve water quality. Most of these will also help you in other ways, from improved water quality, to better soil, to decreased need to buy expensive nutrients. 

 Nobody knows your land like you do.  You may find that one or more of the practices listed represent an improvement to your operation. 
While you read this article keep in mind that we can help you pay for most of these.

Leopold Center:  Water Quality BMP's

Feedlot Runoff During Snowmelt

While it's still cold out and spring may feel like it's a long time from now, we all know that it will be here before we know it.  While it's true that spring is a time for celebration of new life, it brings with it the single biggest threat to our watershed: Livestock Feedlot Runoff. 

Cold weather forces our livestock indoors and leaves our animals immobile during the winter months.  Though livestock is relatively sedentary during this span, bodily processes don't cease.  We all know the result quite well.  An entire seasons waste accumulates in one central location.  When the first rainfalls occur, frozen ground means that when runoff washes this waste away much of it make it right to your nearest stream rather than permeate the soil resulting in elevated levels of phosphates, nitrates, and fecal coliforms like E.coli.  Needless to say, this has a profound effect on the aquatic species of turtle creek.  It's also dangerous for humans who wish to use Turtle Creek for recreational purposes.

You can help!  Below is a link to information made publicly available by the University of Massachusetts Amherst.  It's a good starting point by which to begin thinking about how you can deal with feedlot runoff. 

Other Links

2014: The Year Of The Water Crisis

2014 has been a year in which Americans are suddenly very aware of the water we have all taken for granted for so long.  Between the tank leak in West Virginia, the drought in California, and algae bloom in Lake Erie, people are beginning to become concerned.  

It's worth noting that the algae bloom in Lake Erie is thought to be driven largely by agriculture in the region.  While our water quality in McLean County isn't yet at this kind of crisis level, I think everyone agrees that this is an example that we certainly don't want to follow.

Below are links to two radio programs I've listened to recently.  While they focus on problems in different regions than our own, I think you'll find that they drive home the priceless nature of a usable water supply.  Gone are the days where we can take this gift for granted.

Soil Health and the
Dinner Table


Depending on how you look at it, this article has nothing or everything to do with your operation. It details the education of a chef's journey to appreciate what the best producers do to make their operations great. The twofold lesson that the author learns, and what is probably second nature to many of you, is this:

Great food starts with great soil, and
Great soil starts with biodiversity

Book Review:  The Third Plate

A Perspective on Cover Crops

Last week I was fortunate enough to meet Don Heilman, a board member of Yahara Pride Farms.  Yahara Pride Farms is a producer driven organization aimed at improving water quality in the rivers and lakes of the Yahara watershed in southern Wisconsin.

Among the many helpful resources made available on their website, I was drawn to their perspective on cover crops. Cover crops are gaining popularity across the nation thanks to their ability to improve your soil, increase crop production, and cut down on nutrient costs for crops. I encourage every crop producer in the watershed to take a look at their page on cover crops.  It really drives home the point that cover crops are a great idea for your operation, nevermind the great things that they do for our waters.

Yahara Pride Farms:  Cover Crops

If you're as intrigued as I am about what's going on in the Yahara watershed, you'll find their homepage below.


Livestock as Land Stewards


Livestock production and land stewardship are not opposing forces. Every Day more and more is being learned about how livestock can be used to mimic natural processes and sustain lands that may have lost many native species.  I recently discovered a radio presentation that drives home this very point.  I encourage everybody to listen to by visiting the link below.

Podcast: Savory Insitute

While the story takes place half a world away, the history of buffalo on the northern plains is a close parallel.  These use of livestock to mimic natural processes and save native ecosystems isn't new to North Dakota; it's what our friends at the North Dakota Grazing Lands Coalition have been telling us for some time now.  You can learn more about them at http://www.ndglc.com/.

A Perspective on Water

An illuminating web page sent to me on World Water Day 2014. It's an entertaining presentation that gets you thinking about our relationship to that magical substance known simultaneously as dihydrogen oxide, the universal solvent, or more simply and more personally as water. 

We'll have to shame the page designers into including more North Dakota locations to choose from in the future.