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Red Cedar Phosphorous Reduction Program

Field Day 2009

The Red Cedar River watershed annually receives excessive amounts of nutrients and sediments from a variety of sources. These nutrients and sediments typically generate large algae blooms, which in turn create a degraded water resource. However, a group of individuals trying to improve water quality are working with local landowners and producers to create a local grass-roots pilot project to address nutrient runoff.

The Red Cedar River Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Coordination Team began collecting the background data necessary to create an effective pilot project. It was decided to use a strategy called “Community-Based Social Marketing” (CBSM) which uses a four-step approach to create sustainable behavior change. These steps include; identifying the barriers to the behavior change, creating a strategy using behavior change tools, piloting the strategy, and evaluating the impact of the pilot project. 

The TMDL Coordination Team decided to focus on one township in the Red Cedar River watershed for this pilot project. Grant Township in Dunn County was chosen as the focus group.  Project coordinators surveyed 30 landowners to identify barriers and incentives to conservation implementation. Some of these barriers included; a disconnect between the perception of water quality in the township and water downstream in Tainter and Menomin Lakes, concerns about implementing and using no-till conservation tillage, as well as producer reluctance to implement conservation tillage without being assured of its success. The Red Cedar TMDL Coordination Team worked with the farmers and landowners to develop a pilot project to address these barriers.

The pilot project was implemented in the spring of 2009 in Grant Township, with twenty-one landowners representing 2,315 cropland acres, participating.  Eight producers planted no-till corn on 236 acres, four producers planted no-till soybeans on 400 acres, and fifteen landowners soil tested 1,680 acres.

Farmers interested in soil sampling were provided field maps, soil bags, a soil probe, soil bag labels, and complete instructions on how to appropriately soil sample their farm. Shipping and lab analysis costs were covered using existing grant funds. Once soil test results were received from the lab, the project coordinators met with landowners to review the reports. 

The costs for the no-till corn planter and no-till bean drill were covered for interested farmers. A private contractor was used to plant the no-till corn acres. Farmers using the no-till soybean drill worked with a local cooperative that provided the drill.

The response to the pilot project has been encouraging. Planning for the next phase of this project has already started. Based on the solid relationships and momentum that has been developed thus far within this pilot project, a larger project is hopeful for 2010.  This project is headed by a Coordination Team consisting of members representing the Dunn County Land Conservation Department, Wisconsin DNR, Western Wisconsin Energy, the Tainter Menomin Lake Association, UW-Extension, River Country RC&D and producers.  Funding comes from grants obtained from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and Xcel Energy.