Farm Horizons, April 2017

Ann Lake Targeted Fertilizer Application Reduction Project

BUFFALO –The Wright Soil and Water Conservation District’s (Wright SWCD) Ann Lake Targeted Fertilizer Application Reduction Project has begun. Funded through a grant by the Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR), the project focuses on increasing the use of grid soil testing and GPS-aided application technology.

The goal of the project is to reduce the risk of over applying fertilizer on land within the Ann Lake Watershed. In addition, producers will be required to follow the U of M fertilizer rate guidelines. We want to continue encouraging the 4Rs of nutrient management; right source, right rate, right time, and right place.

Enrolled producers will receive cost-share for working with their local cooperative, to conduct grid soil sampling and determine variable rate fertilizer needs. The cooperative will apply fertilizer using GPS technology according to soil test results. Thus, the field receives fertilizer where it’s needed rather than one standard application rate. More importantly, with low commodity prices, this is an important tool for producers to retain optimal yields while cutting costs.

As a result, excessive fertilizer applications (sometimes an outcome of the standard rate method), will be reduced and runoff from rain events will transport fewer nutrients to nearby surface waters thereby reducing nuisance algae blooms and improving recreational activities on the lake.

The Wright SWCD is working with Centra Sota Cooperatives in Cokato/Buffalo to implement this project. However, we will work with anyone’s agronomist to get a producer enrolled. If you are interested please contact Dan Nadeau at 763-682-1933 Ext 3.

In 2014, the Wright SWCD applied for a Clean Water Fund grant to assist agricultural producers with switching from standard fertilizer application to variable GPS-aided fertilizer application on their fields. As most agricultural producers do not have the required equipment, they probably will contract with their local co-ops to provide these services. In turn, the Wright SWCD has also partnered with these local co-ops to facilitate the cooperation with producers with the use of this grant.

This project is a result of the Ann Lake Nutrient TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load) study which identified County Ditch 10 (from Grass Lake to Ann Lake) as a major contributor of the system’s total phosphorus load. Ann Lake is estimated to have an annual Phosphorus loading rate of 5,676 pounds per year. The goal of this project is to achieve a 10% reduction in the phosphorus fertilizer applied on 4,000 acres of targeted cropland using soil tests and GPS-aided fertilizer application while still realizing full yield goals for each field and reducing phosphorus runoff to the ditch system.

Priority fields within the project boundary were identified based on their proximity to water bodies, slope, soil type and stream flow

strength. Soil sample grids will be established based on field size and sampled every two acres or in at least 10 locations. Samples will be analyzed for phosphorus, potassium, zinc, sulfur, pH, and organic matter. Based upon the results of the soil tests, an application rate will be calculated for each type of fertilizer to be applied.

The farmer then will utilize

the variable rate GPS aided

application to apply fertilizer at the needed rate within specific areas of the field. Producers get reimbursed $10 per 2.5 acres for soil tests and $4.50 per acre for the variable rate spreading.

The goal of this grant is to demonstrate the benefits of switching to the variable application program from the standard application method.

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