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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: Opening scene of the Root River Field to Stream Partnership: Lessons Learned video. An aerial view of agricultural landscape in Root River Watershed.
Bluff County Reader, February 2017
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)

2010-2016 Data: Field Runoff Lessons Learned (PDF: 736 KB / 2 pages)

2018 Video (MDA YouTube channel):  RRFSP shares the lessons learned from seven years of baseline data and three farmers share their experiences and efforts to install additional conservation practices. 


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, Industry, Fillmore, Mower and Houston County Soil and Water Conservation Districts, state agencies 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, additional Best Management Practices (BMPs) are being implemented throughout the three subwatersheds and monitoring will continue for the next several years to detect water quality changes over time. 

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


In-Stream Monitoring

Out of over 60 sub-watersheds in the Root River Watershed, three were selected for this study.

The three subwatersheds are South Branch of the Root River Headwaters, Crystal Creek, and Bridge Creek.  In-stream monitoring sites are located at each of these subwatershed outlets. 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 nitrogen
  • 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.

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. Field 1: Headwaters Watershed. Con and soybean rotation with sub-surface tile drainage (no manure), 2% slopes. Both surface and sub-surface runoff is monitored at this field. 
  2. Field 2: Crystal Creek Watershed. Continuous corn with alfalfa rotated every 4-5 years. Liquid injected dairy manure, 8% slopes.
  3. Field 3: Crystal Creek Watershed. Contour strip cropping with two-thirds corn and soybeans and one-third alfalfa. Injected liquid hog manure applied to soybean acres, 6% slopes.
  4. Field 4: Bridge Creek Watershed. Continuous corn silage with injected liquid dairy manure (no commercial fertilizers), 6% slopes

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