Rice Creek

Rice Creek Brook Trout. Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources)

Nitrogen is an important fertilizer for growing corn in southern Minnesota, but if nitrogen (in the form of nitrates) washes out of a field, they can cause problems in rivers, lakes, and drinking water wells. That’s why a coalition of conservation groups and farm groups in Rice County are looking for effective ways to keep nitrates in the fields and out of our water supplies.

One project on Rice Creek is showing a lot of promise, according to Dr. Paul Jackson, associate professor of chemistry and environmental studies at St. Olaf College. His study is looking at fields that plant cover crops as a way to capture field nitrates and hold them in the soil during the fall and winter.

“The results from this first year of work testing tile drainage in the Rice Creek Watershed strongly suggest that fields planted with cover crops discharge a lower concentration of nitrate compared to fields without cover crops,” said Jackson.

Want to see how cover crops are impacting Rice Creek for yourself?

Rice County Soil and Water Conservation District and the Cannon River Watershed Partnership are teaming up with six other groups to host a field day titled “Cover Crops, Tillage and Trout: How Are They Connected?” from 11:45 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday, Sept. 16 at Roger Helgeson’s Farm located at 9821 Decker Ave., Northfield.

Participants will explore the watershed connections between agriculture, conservation, water quality, and habitat. They’ll hear how Dundas area farmer John Becker has increased his farm profitability and improved water quality using the Land O’Lakes Truterra Insights program. They’ll see how the Minnesota DNR uses electro-fishing to estimate fish populations and river health. They’ll see how researchers collect aquatic insects and how insect populations tell us how clean and healthy a stream is. And they’ll see how some farming techniques can create soil that absorbs and captures rainfall and fertilizers and other farming techniques can compact the soil and lead to more field runoff and less healthy rivers and lakes.

The field day will start at the 11:45 a.m. with a light lunch and will end at 3 p.m. This event is free and open to the public, but please register at www.crwp.net/events by Sept. 11 to help the group plan for meals.

In addition to the Rice SWCD and CRWP, project partners include Fishers and Farmers Partnership, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, St. Olaf College, Minnesota Extension and Compeer Financial.

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