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Home > Protecting Our Lands & Waters > Clean Water Fund > On-Farm Projects > Root River Field to Stream Partnership (RRFSP)

Root River Field to Stream Partnership (RRFSP)

In the News: Project featured in The Farmer, July 2016.

Real time weather and monitoring data: Available from the Root River Field to Stream Partnership monitoring stations.

Project Brochure: Root River Field to Stream Partnership (PDF: 7.4 MB / 2 pages).

2010-2015 Data: Field Runoff Lessons Learned (PDF: 885 KB / 2 pages)


Click on this icon to watch the Root River Field to Stream VideoMinnesota farmers participating in the Field to Stream PartnershipRoot River located in southeastern MinnesotaFiberglass flume located at the edge of an agricultural field in southeast Minnesota







The Root River Partnership is designed to help southeastern Minnesota farmers and policy-makers better understand the relationship between
agricultural practices and water quality.  

Quick Facts:

  • The Root River Field to Stream Partnership began in 2009 to better understand how agricultural practices affect the health of local rivers and streams.
  • This partnership includes farmers and their advisers, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Minnesota Agricultural Water Resource Center, The Nature Conservancy, Monsanto, Fillmore, Mower and Houston County Soil and Water Conservation Districts, and academic researchers. 
  • The purpose of this project is to conduct intensive surface and groundwater monitoring at multiple scales in order to provide an assessment of the amount and sources of nutrients and sediment delivered to the watershed outlet and also to determine the effectiveness of agricultural conservation practices.
  • Monitoring is occurring both at the edge of agricultural fields and at in-stream locations. Monitoring at these two locations will help improve the understanding of how practices on the land affect water quality on a larger scale.
  • Baseline monitoring was conducted from 2010-2015. Starting in 2016, Best Management Practices (BMPs) began to be installed throughout the three subwatersheds and monitoring will continue to observe water quality changes that may occur. Map showing the location of the Root River watershed

The Root River Watershed is located in southeastern Minnesota. It is approximately 1 million acres in size and encompasses diverse landscape features. There are three distinct geologic landscapes within the Root River watershed. For this reason, monitoring is targeted to one subwatershed within each of the three geologic landscapes. At least one edge-of-field and one in-stream monitoring station is located in each of the three distinct geologic landscapes of the Root River watershed.  

Western portion (Eroded Till): flat agricultural land, gently sloping glacial till

Middle portion (Karst): characterized by karst geology: distinct features include this soil over fractured limestone bedrock, sinkholes and underground caves

Eastern portion (Bluffland): landscape transitions into bluffs along the Mississippi River Valley


Edge-of-Field Monitoring

Fiberglass flume located at the edge of an agricultural field in southeast Minnesota Edge-of-field sites provide information about the amount of soil and nutrients moving off a given field into an adjacent waterway. In addition to measuring surface water runoff, equipment has been installed at one station to also measure sub-surface tile drainage. Each site captures water from an area of between 18 and 96 acres.

Four edge-of-field sites have been  installed. The monitoring equipment is located at the edge of actual working farms. Each site is fully automated to collect water samples whenever runoff occurs as well as to continuously collect data on soil temperature and moisture, precipitation and ambient weather conditions. Water samples are analyzed for nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment. In addition, water moving through the soil and below the root zone of growing crops is monitored for nitrate-nitrogen using lysimeters. Monitoring occurs 365 days per year. 




Farming Systems on Participating Farms (edge-of-field monitoring sites):

  1. Continuous corn with alfalfa rotated every 4-5 years. Liquid hog and dairy manure. 8% slopes
  2. Contour strip cropping with 2/3 corn and soybeans and 1/3 alfalfa. Liquid hog manure applied to soybean acres. 6% slopes
  3. Continuous corn silage with liquid dairy manure (no commercial fertilizers). 6% slopes
  4. Corn and soybean rotation with sub-surface tile drainage (no manure). 2% slopes
  5. All monitored fields use conventional tillage practices

In-Stream Monitoring

There are 81 major watersheds in Minnesota. Within each watershed, there are smaller basins called subwatersheds. 

Within the Root River watershed, in-stream monitoring sites are located at the outlet of three subwatersheds. The three subwatersheds are South Branch of the Root River Headwaters, Crystal Creek, and Bridge Creek. Each site captures water from an area of 2,800-4,700 acres. In-stream sites are equipped to continuously monitor stream flow, turbidity and precipitation during ice-free periods. 

Woman collecting a water sample from a stream

Approximately 35 samples are collected annually from each subwatershed outlet site. Samples are analyzed for:

  • Total suspended solids
  • Total phosphorous
  • Dissolved orthophosphorus
  • Nitrate and nitrite-nitrogen
  • Total Kjeldahl
  • Ammonia
  • Chloride 
  • Pesticides

Samples are collected by staff from Fillmore and Mower County Soil and Water Conservation Districts.

In-stream samples are used to establish baseline data and determine the long-term (more than 10 years) effects of land management activities employed as part of the project.  

Additional Research Activities

In addition to water monitoring, the Root River Field to Stream Partnership is also using eight complementary research tools:

Together these tools and techniques help to characterize water quality and hydrology and represent a comprehensive scientific approach to understanding an entire watershed. For questions about any research activity, please refer to contacts at the end of this page.


   Minnesota Agricultural Water Resource CenterMonsanto company logoThe Nature Conservancy logoClean Water Land & Legacy Amendment logo

 Fillmore County Soil and Water Conservation District logoMower County Soil & Water Conservation District logo Minnesota Department of Agriculture logo


 MDA Contacts

Kevin Kuehner
Soil Scientist
Kevin.Kuehner@state.mn.us ~ 507-765-4530

Margaret Wagner
Supervisor, Clean Water Technical Assistance Unit
Margaret.Wagner@state.mn.us ~ 651-201-6488