Webinars provide UM expertise to Minnesota SWCD's assisting landowner conservation efforts

When Water Resources Center (WRC) co-director Faye Sleeper and LeAnn Buck of the Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts (MASWCD) meet regularly for lunch, the conversation often focuses on the importance and challenge of getting UM research into the minds and hands of SWCD officials and staff across Minnesota. “We realized we needed a pathway to get the latest WRC and UM Extension scientific research into application, addressing land and water issues,” said Sleeper. The resulting partnership between UM Extension, WRC and MASWCD will produce three webinars per year. Earlier this year webinar offerings were: Emerging Climate Trends with Mark Seeley, and Emerging Conservation Practices, and Challenges for Agricultural Drainage with Gary Sands. The third presentation with Lee Frelich will air October 2, at 10:00am. Topics for the 2014 webinars are still under consideration.

The webinars translate UM research into a format accessible to SWCD staffers and supervisors, who in turn can provide knowledgeable, science-based answers to questions they receive from landowners. The topics chosen for the webinars are hot button issues of the day, including climate change, our changing forests, and agricultural drainage, all of which are examined under the scope of the latest research. And, they offer some practical solutions.

Gary Sands addressed the practice of conservation agricultural drainage, asserting that drainage will always be essential to feeding more and more people. While drainage is unavoidable, he advocates practicing the golden rule of drainage, “drain what is necessary for healthy soil and crop growth and not a drop more.” He cited an upcoming fall 2013 Extension publication which features ten ways to reduce nitrogen loads in agricultural runoff, including use of winter cover crops, reducing nitrate concentrations in the root zone, recycling of drainage water, which reduces the amount of nitrate delivered to the field edge, and saturated buffers which remove nitrates at the field’s edge before the water reaches the ditch or stream.

The first two webinars averaged 40 location views, a figure that makes LeAnn Buck happy. “SWCDs work on a one-to-one basis with citizens to implement conservation practices across the landscape. The webinars provide a window into emerging research and science promoting more effective application of conservation activities by resource professionals, while helping the SWCD citizen board members prioritize local resource efforts.”

Gary Sand’s August 2, 2013 webinar is available for viewing here: https://umconnect.umn.edu/p12677928/