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Fertilizer reduction project

Targeted fertilizer application reduction project off to great start

The Clearwater River Watershed District's (CRWD) Targeted Fertilizer Application Reduction Project has begun in earnest. The project is funded in part by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency through a grant from the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Section 319 Nonpoint Source Management Fund. The local funding for this project is being provided by the CRWD through the Clearwater River Chain of Lakes Restoration Project. The focus is on increasing the use of soil testing and GPS-aided application technology to lead to a reduction of the amount of fertilizer applied to agricultural fields in the upper parts of the Clearwater River Watershed above Lake Betsy.

Enrolled producers work with a local cooperative, which conducts gridded soil testing on enrolled fields to determine how much fertilizer is needed in each grid. Once determined, the cooperative returns and applies the correct amount of fertilizer following the soil testing results using GPS technology. The result is that the field receives a more accurate amount of fertilizer instead of a blanket, standard application rate. During the trial portion of this project, test fields demonstrated a decrease in the amount of fertilizer applied, while yields were either unaffected or experienced an increase due to all parts of the field receiving amounts of fertilizer needed for optimal growth.

In turn, by not having excessive fertilizer applied to the field (a common result using the standard rate method), runoff from rain events transports less fertilizer to the surface waters of the Clearwater River Watershed, including the Clearwater River Chain of Lakes. Fertilizer is high in nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen, and excessive nutrients entering a body of water is detrimental to its health.

The Clearwater River Watershed District is working with the Consumer Cooperative Association in Litchfield, Minn., and the Centra Sota Cooperative in Watkins, Minn., to implement this project.

Enrollment for this year has begun, and will continue into 2016. Contact one of these cooperatives or the District office to discuss enrollment. To learn more about the CRWD, please visit our website at: www.crwd.org.