The area of Minnesota’s landscape in severe to extreme drought diminished during February, dropping from 84 percent of the state’s landscape to under 70 percent. This modest improvement was mostly due to above normal snowfall, especially across central and northern counties.
The new climate outlooks from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center suggest that, for much of March, the Great Lakes region will see above- normal precipitation. This is welcome news in the context of improving our drought situation, especially if we can lose the soil frost as well so the ground is more receptive to moisture recharge. In some areas, frost depth ranges from 20 to 40 inches; this will take some time to thaw out.
One potential risk of a wetter-than-normal March is the threat of flooding from snow melt. Last week, the National Weather Service updated the spring flood outlook for major Minnesota rivers. This new outlook calls for a near-normal risk of spring snowmelt flooding on portions of the Upper Minnesota River, as well as the Upper Mississippi River. This is mostly due to more abundant snowfalls during February, along with deeper ground frost, which combined to elevate the risk of spring flooding from a below normal level to a near normal level. You can read more about the spring flooding outlook and keep up to date here: http://1.usa.gov/VZTAQn.
Spring flood outlook probabilities for the Red River are also available from the Grand Forks NWS Office. These show a relatively higher risk of flooding on the lower end of the Red River Valley between Wapehton and Fargo, ND.
You can get more detail at: http://1.usa.gov/YPUb69.
The higher risk of flooding along the Red River is because the abundant snow cover already contains 2 to 5 inches of liquid water trapped on top of frozen ground there. A rapid thaw could cause a great volume of runoff before the soils are capable of absorbing the moisture. If this situation develops and is further compounded by heavy March rainfalls, then indeed this area of the state could see some moderate to major flooding. Thus state and federal agencies will monitor the gauged flow volumes on the rivers, as well as the weather very carefully during the month of March.
Visit www.extension.umn.edu/extreme-weather, for related educational information on drought and winter impacts. Visit climate.umn.edu, for more information from the University of Minnesota’s climatology working group.
Landowners from Meeker County can now enroll land in Walk-In Access, a program of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Walk-In lands provide public access to private land. Landowners, in turn, are paid for the access. The program now includes 35 counties in the western half of the state.
“We’ve had many requests to expand the area of our Walk-In pilot program,” said Marybeth Block, DNR Walk-In access coordinator. “As we enter our third year for the program, the time seems right to add some additional counties.”
Owners and operators of livestock and poultry operations have a new tool to calculate the costs and benefits of installing technologies to treat odors and gases emitted from the facilities: a feedlot air emissions treatment cost calculator. The calculator comes with three how-to videos.
Animal feeding operator owners and managers can use several techniques to manage odors and gas emissions; each has different costs and benefits. The feedlot air emissions treatment cost calculator can be used to compare alternative technologies and designs with different costs and benefits. The calculator has information on biofilters, covers, scrubbers, manure belts, vegetative buffer and anaerobic digesters.
The big scare and the big myths
When people hear the term “genetically modified,” most associate it with negative health and environmental effects without fully understanding what it means. A lack of understanding about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) can create a fear of them.
When an organism is genetically modified (GM), its DNA is altered through genetic engineering to allow it to become resistant to certain weeds, pests, or environmental conditions. Scientists and agriculturalists use genetically engineered (GE) crops to produce a higher grain yield, reduce the amount of labor and field maintenance costs, as well as help grow crops in poor environmental conditions.
Governor Mark Dayton has proclaimed March 17-23, 2013, as Minnesota Agriculture Week. The designation is an effort to raise awareness of the positive and important contributions agriculture makes to Minnesota’s economy and its people.
Minnesota agriculture generated $18.5 billion in cash receipts and $6.8 billion in exports in 2011, according to the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. More than 10 percent of the jobs in Minnesota are linked to agriculture.
Minnesota Department of Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson says it’s important to recognize the impact agriculture has on the lives of all Minnesotans.
“Minnesota farms and agribusinesses produce high quality foods and agricultural products that we all enjoy and that are also exported around the world,” said Frederickson. “We rank sixth in the nation in agriculture production and we have our hard-working farmers and ranchers to thank for that.”
The top-ranking Minnesota counties in agricultural production are Stearns, Martin, Renville, Blue Earth and Nobles.
Minnesota Agriculture Week is being recognized in conjunction with the 40th Anniversary of National Agriculture Day which, this year is Tuesday, March 19. For more information on National Ag Day, visit the website www.agday.org.