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Home > Ag Chemicals & Fertilizers > Fertilizers > Nutrient Management > Revision of the Nitrogen Fertilizer Management Plan > Meetings > April 26, 2011 Meeting Notes

April 26, 2011 Meeting Notes

Date: April 26, 2011
Time: 9:30 am - 2:30 pm
Location: Minnesota Veterans Services Building, St. Paul

Committee Members Present (Y or N)

Byron Adams-Y
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
Dawn Bernau-Y
Fillmore SWCD
Rich Biske-Y
Nature Conservancy
Doug Bos-Y
Rock County Land Management Office/SWCD
Steve Commerford-Y
Minnesota Independent Crop Consultant Association
Randy Ellingboe-Y
Minnesota Department of Health
Pete Ewing- N
Minnesota Area II Potato Growers Council
Warren Formo-Y
Minnesota Agricultural Water Resources Coalition
Jim Krebsbach-Y
Minnesota Crop Production Retailers
Eric Mohring-Y
Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources
Dave Pfarr-Y
Minnesota Corn Growers Association
Carl Rosen-Y
University of Minnesota Department of Soil, Water and Climate
Michael Schmitt-Y
University of Minnesota Extension
Faye Sleeper-Y
University of Minnesota Water Resources Center
Pat Sweeney-Y
Freshwater Society
Jill Trescott-Y
Dakota County Water Management
Princesa VanBuren Hansen-N
Minnesota Environmental Quality Board
Skip Wright-Y
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Alternate Committee Members Present (Y or N)

Paul Gray-Y
Minnesota Area II Potato Growers Council
Sheila Grow-N
Minnesota Department of Health
Brad Englund-N
Minnesota Crop Production Retailers
John Lamb-Y
University of Minnesota Department of Soil, Water and Climate/Extension
Bryce Nelson-N
Minnesota Independent Crop Consultant Association
Joan Nephew-N
Freshwater Society
Dave Wall-Y
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
Dave Wright-Y
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Minnesota Department of Agriculture Staff
Bruce Montgomery, Dan Stoddard, Jennifer Gallus, Joshua Stamper, Annie Felix, Greg Buzicky, Kim Kaiser, Brennon Schaefer

Ann Lewandowski

Handouts given: Nitrogen 101 PowerPoint Slides, MDA Groundwater Monitoring Network PowerPoint Slides, Private Well Monitoring Network PowerPoint Slides, Costs of Groundwater Nitrate Contamination: A survey of Private Well Owners in Central Minnesota Handout; Costs of Groundwater Nitrate Contamination: Municipal Water Suppliers Handout

1) Welcome and housekeeping

Facilitator Annie Felix

2) Introductions

Committee members were asked to state their name, organization, and what their first job was.

3) Agenda Overview, Rules of the Road

Rules of the Road were once again reviewed. Meeting evaluations were handed out.

4) MN Ag 101 & Nitrogen Fertilizer; Soils, Crops, Nitrogen Fertilizer Sources

U of MN Department of Soil, Water, and Climate Professor John Lamb gave a “Nitrogen 101” presentation, and acknowledged Carl Rosen (U of MN Department of Soil, Water, and Climate Professor and Department Head) for some of the material presented.

Lamb explained the Nitrogen Cycle, including nitrogen forms, inputs, and losses. He told the group that, “Every decision that comes out of this room should be based on the N cycle.” Lamb also said that ammonium and nitrate are the forms of nitrogen that we can do the most about from a management standpoint.
With regard to manure, Lamb said that it contributes to organic and inorganic forms of nitrogen, and is sometimes the big question mark as to how much was applied, and if the nitrogen is available when the plants need it.

In response to a question about the amounts of manure applied in MN, Michael Schmitt (U of MN Professor and CFANS Senior Associate Dean for Extension) responded that there are no hard statistics for manure N values, and that manure is credited for only about 25-30 percent of total N supplied in the state, “although, it could account for more.”

Lamb also explained how the processes of mineralization, immobilization, and nitrification are not equilibriums, and are all affected by microorganisms, moisture, and temperature.

Lamb shared a trends graphic illustrating the amount of use for the three major nitrogen sources in MN. Urea and anhydrous ammonia use have been neck-in-neck for the past several years. The graphic also illustrates that commercial nitrogen use is not increasing, rather is it staying at a level pace (see handout).

While explaining a graphic titled, “Relationship between Grain Corn Production, Acreage, and N Fertilizer Inputs,” Lamb said that the fairly flat line of fertilizer inputs beginning in the early 1990’s “lines up with the N BMPs from the original task force.” He also pointed out how bushels of grain produced have doubled since 1992, yet nitrogen inputs have remained at almost the same level.

Nitrogen Use Efficiency (NUE) was also discussed. Statewide NUE for corn is continually increasing. Reasons for increased NUE can be attributed to a multitude of factors including corn geneticists breeding a more efficient plant, stresses being taken out of the system like weeds and rootworms, better cultural methods, and growers becoming more and more educated (crediting legumes, organic matter, soil tests, better N management),equipment technology, and more. For more information, see handout.

Parking Lot: After several questions and answers, the group came up with topics to place in the “Parking Lot,” which are items the group would like to discuss further at future meetings. Parking Lot items include: Equipment limitations and availability, perennial corn, 400-bu/ac corn, broadcast corn, fertilizer technologies, livestock numbers by species, efficiency of storage and applications, research needs, and credit values.

5) Nitrogen in Groundwater: How big is the problem and what are the trends?

MDA Hydrologist Brennon Schaefer gave a presentation about the MDA Groundwater Monitoring Network, and how that although the program was developed to monitor the occurrence and concentration of pesticides, an extra bonus is collecting nitrate samples as well.

Schaefer discussed how the MDA has 10 monitoring regions throughout the state and that there are three types of monitoring (monitoring wells, springs, and urban wells). Additionally, the MDA started sampling private wells in 2009. Most resources are devoted to the nitrate-prone areas of the central sands and the karst areas of SE MN.

Many questions were directed to Schaefer about the design, installation and limitation of monitoring wells. MDA PFMD Assistant Director Dan Stoddard explained the protocol that MDA follows when designing programs and installing monitoring wells. With regard to placement of wells, Stoddard explained that MDA focuses on agricultural areas, areas of shallow groundwater, wells are not near houses or fertilizer point sources, wells are installed at edge-of-field.

Another comment from a committee member questioned whether the sites/results could be linked to practices in the immediate area of the wells.
Preliminary results from the monitoring network can be found by region in the handout.

Private Well Monitoring Networks

MDA Hydrologist Kimberly Kaiser gave a presentation about MDA Private Well Monitoring Networks. Kaiser reviewed the Southeast MN Nitrate Monitoring Network that began in 2007, and showed illustrations of the area’s geology. One goal for the network is to get a picture of what is happening at the water table level, as well as, in the drinking water. Clear patterns are surfacing between nitrate levels and aquifers in the area (see handout for more information).

MDA Fertilizer Management Unit Supervisor Bruce Montgomery added that the monitoring network is homeowner driven, and that the sampling process is a low cost and sustainable way to operate, which meets the goal of a long term, low cost monitoring network. Lessons learned from the SE network were incorporated into designing the recently implemented Central Sands Private Well Monitoring Network.

The objectives of the Centrals Sands network are to obtain current conditions of nitrate concentrations, to determine areas of concern in order to develop a long-term trend monitoring network, to educate the well owners, and to assist counties in fulfilling their county water plans goal related to nitrates. Currently, sample kits are being sent to participants, which they are submitting to a private water testing lab for analysis. See handout for more information.

6) What are the economic impacts?

Ann Lewandowski with the U of MN Water Resources Center spoke to the group about the costs of nitrate contamination in drinking water to both municipal water suppliers and private well owners. Two informational handouts were given with this presentation that explains the costs in depth (see handouts).

7) MPCA’s nitrogen loading study

Not presented during the meeting due to time constraints. It will be presented at a future meeting.

8) Summary & wrap up

During the wrap up, a committee member referred back to item number 5, “How big is the problem and what are the trends?” Montgomery replied that that we don’t know. We’re building the foundation with projects that the MDA is funding. Stoddard added that based on nitrate clinic data, MDA estimates that 10-13 percent of the wells in vulnerable aquifers are above the 10ppm standard.

Some discussion took place about the limitations of the MDA nitrate clinic data including the fact that the data tends to be skewed on the high side because the testing is focused in vulnerable areas, the program tends to get the home owners who are most concerned, and sand point wells are common in the vulnerable areas. Montgomery also added that the program has tested more than 55,000 wells, but it is used primarily as an educational tool.

A question was asked about other groundwater nitrate databases that exist. Some databases that were named included MPCA’s Ambient Groundwater Program, MDH’s well log and MDH municipal well information, DNR’s Hydrogeologic Atlas, Dakota County, as well as, several other county databases.

During open discussion, committee members were asked to briefly give input about the day’s meeting or future meetings, some comments are as follows:

  • Need a “sources” discussion
  • Address land use in the plan in highly vulnerable areas
  • Trends are not always really trends and variability is great, I think we need more data sets - we’ve only scratched the surface – need more discussion
  • Need to look at well problems versus groundwater problems
  • Questioned whether there would be a “map” of future topics/speakers
  • Would like to hear more about sources
  • I thinks we’re becoming better managers of the land
  • Today’s meeting sparked interest in working with a producer
  • Would like more manure studies
  • Doesn’t want the group to get bogged down with numbers and data points or get lost by having more data
  • We see trends opposing each other that don’t make sense
  • Remarkable increases in productivity with inputs staying the same
  • Would like to examine the relationship between irrigation and nitrate in drinking water
  • How does hydrology influence concentrations?

The date of the next meeting was cancelled, watch for an email regarding a new date.

Notes submitted by Jennifer Gallus with incorporation of notes from Joshua Stamper.