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Home > Protecting Our Lands & Waters > Clean Water Fund > Groundwater & Drinking Water Protection > Irrigation Workshops & On Farm Nitrogen Management

Irrigation Outreach & On Farm Nitrogen Management in Central Minnesota

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) has partnered with the East Otter Tail Soil and Water Conservation District (EOT SWCD) to carry out a series of irrigation workshops and expand programs that promote proper water and nitrogen fertilizer management.

  1. Irrigation Outreach and Irrigation Workshops
  2. Central Minnesota Ag Weather Network
  3. On-Farm Nitrogen Management Program

Irrigation Outreach and Irrigation Workshops

Ensuring that Minnesota irrigators have the proper technical tools and training is critical to the long-term protection of groundwater resources.Mapof Minnesota showing the location of nine irrigation workshops

2018 Irrigation Workshop
February 8, 2018
Thumper Pond
Ottertail, MN
8:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. (lunch provided)

Workshop History

The MDA and EOT SWCD developed curriculum and hosted the first workshop in 2011 (New York Mills, MN). The hands-on program engaged participants and addressed the combined topics of nitrogen and fertilizer management. The workshop was well received and emphasized a need for more. To meet this need, three central Minnesota workshops were held in both 2012 and 2013. In 2014 and 2015, one larger workshop was held. The presentations were split between irrigation and nitrogen management.

Workshops have included speakers from the MDA, NRCS, local SWCDs, the University of Minnesota Extension, and irrigation industry representatives. Topics covered during each workshop have included:

  • Irrigation Water Management
  • Soil Moisture Assessment
  • Nitrogen Management on Sandy Soils
  • Soil Health and Moisture Holding Capacity
  • Area Groundwater Nitrogen Concerns

Workshop Summaries and Resources

Central Minnesota Ag Weather Network

Local crop water use information is available from 12 weather stations. This network has grown in response to the needs of irrigating producers in this region. The daily crop water use data provided by these stations is critical for growers to efficiently schedule their irrigation water applications. Additional program information, a map of sites and a link to the weather network can be found at Central Minnesota Ag Weather Network.

One-on-One Irrigation Scheduling Program

East Otter Tail SWCD offers one-on-one training and works with individual farmers to schedule proper irrigation management.

To learn more about one-on-one training, please contact the East Otter Tail SWCD at 218-346-4260 extension 3.

On-Farm Nitrogen Management Program

Partners also support an on-farm nitrogen management program to encourage producers to:

  1. Implement management actions
  2. Monitor the actions
  3. Use the results to adjust future management

The program is focused around the corn Basal Stalk Nitrate Test (BSNT). In general, this test evaluates how much nitrogen is leftover at the end of the growing season. Participation in the on farm nitrogen management program

Stalk samples are taken when the corn crop is showing stress. Aerial images, taken by plane, are used to determine this timing. Sampling likely occurs during mid-to-late August. Each producer enrolled in the program receives a copy of the imagery, the stalk sample results from their field, and an annual program summary. The summary includes data from all program participants. Participants are invited to a follow-up meeting in the winter to review data and discuss possible management changes that could improve the efficiency of nitrogen use in their field. 

  • Participation in this program is FREE!
  • Producers must be located in Becker, Hubbard, Wadena, Otter Tail or Todd Counties to participate
  • Interested producers are encouraged to contact East Otter Tail SWCD
    (Aaron Salo, District Technician, 218-346-4260, Ext 118)

2011 Adaptive Nitrogen Management GSS Group Summary (PDF: 496.3 KB / 12 pages)
2012 Adaptive Nitrogen Management GSS Group Summary (PDF: 533.7 KB / 12 pages)

On-Farm Nitrogen Trials

In conjunction with the guided stalk sampling, assistance in planning nitrogen strip trials is available. This may include evaluation of alternative nitrogen rate, timing, product, or placement. Producers decide on the nitrogen management practice they are interested in assessing and technical assistance is provided to plan a replicated trial and collect the necessary data to determine whether the management change was beneficial.

2012 Nitrogen Trial Summary (PDF: 374.4 KB / 4 pages)

Why is this Program Important?

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture monitoring data indicates that high groundwater nitrate-nitrogen levels exist in central Minnesota and that nitrate levels have steadily increased in this region over the past two decades. The sandy soils in this area are a major factor contributing to the elevated groundwater nitrate levels. Proper irrigation water and nitrogen management are critical where vulnerable groundwater aquifers are prevalent.

This program will provide Minnesota irrigators with the knowledge, tools and technology to make informed management decisions that can minimize negative environmental impacts while increasing profitability.


East Otter Tail Soil & Water Conservation District logo

USDA National Resource Conservation Service logoMinnesota Department of Agriculture logo

MDA Contacts

Luke Stuewe
Impaired Waters Technical Advisor
Luke.Stuewe@state.mn.us ~ 218-846-7425

Bruce Montgomery
Fertilizer Section Manager
Bruce.Montgomery@state.mn.us ~ 651-201-6178