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March 2017 Newsletter 
North Central Region Water Network
Extension-led, community-driven outreach and education
Director's Update

The Value of Publicly Funded Science and Extension
My Grandma Valerie grew up on a Central Wisconsin dairy farm. She regularly told me stories, full of pride, about my great-grandfather James Chrouser. The son of German and Irish immigrants, he was a farmer, banker, lumberman, and built the first small church in the town where my grandmother was born.  She bragged that he was college-educated and called him a "scientific farmer." His education was scientific and practical, and it helped him grow and support the rural community where he and his family lived.
My great-grandfather went to college at Penn State, one of America's land-grant universities. Land-grant universities were forged in the light and heat of our young nation. They were first created by the Morrill Act of 1862 to provide a "practical education of the industrial classes" . . . "without excluding other scientific and classical studies." They were created because the leaders of our young republic, many with farming backgrounds, recognized that for our country to thrive, we needed our rural citizens to reliably produce food and fiber.
In 1908, after the founding of the land-grants and before the establishment of our national extension system in 1914, President Theodore Roosevelt convened the Country Life Commission. The Commission shined a light on the need of citizens in rural communities, most of whom were tied in some way to the business of agriculture. Similar to today, there was a feeling that more effort had been made to support citizens in urban areas and that rural people were being left behind. Roosevelt, in his introductory message to the 1909 Report of the Country Life Commission, put it this way:
"Under our system, it is helpful to promote discussion of ways in which the people can help themselves. There are three main directions in which the farmers can help themselves; namely, better farming, better business, and better living."
Roosevelt was clear that people were more than capable of helping themselves. He was also clear that government had legitimate role in assisting them:
"Now whatever the State may do toward improving the practice of agriculture, it is not within the sphere of any government to reorganize the farmers' business or reconstruct the social life of farming communities. It is, however, quite within its power to use its influence and the machinery of publicity which it can control for calling public attention to needs and the facts."
Publicly funded land-grant universities and extension have been working with people in rural communities for generations to develop and apply new knowledge based on their local needs.  This partnership between citizens and scientists has been a driving force behind American prestige in the world and our well being at home - and it still is. Jane Frankenberger's article about the USDA NIFA funded Transforming Drainage project in this issue of our newsletter is a perfect example of science addressing concerns that your neighbors have expressed - concerns about flooding, drought, water quality, and water quality regulation. Projects like this show how publicly funded science and extension continue to harness our collective know-how to get a job done. 

If you would like to contribute ideas for the future of the North Central Region Water Network, feel free to send me a note at .


Rebecca Power, Network Director


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Network Initiatives

Visit our Network Initiative Page  for more information on current and previous initiatives, and future funding opportunities. 

Introducing:, A Collaborative Website Created by the Soil Health Nexus Project and the Manure and Soil Health Project
The North Central Region Soil Health Nexus was initiated in 2016 with funding from the North Central Region Water Network. A North Central Soil Health Work Group with representatives from Land Grant Universities across the 12-state region convened to address the challenges of increasing access to soil health research, knowledge, extension and resources. A regional structure was initiated around the three areas of Research, Extension and Outreach, and Resources and Communications. The Nexus/MaSH interactive  website serves the communication conduit for each area. Learn more about the projects involved below.
Manure's fertility value can be an economic win for crop farmers. Manure's organic matter, when used to enhance soil quality, can be an economic and environmental win. But not all fields benefit equally. Identifying the win/win opportunities for manure in crop production is important to a healthy agricultural economy and ecosystem.
A group of Land Grant University and NRCS professionals has formed a Manure and Soil Health team for the purpose of encouraging a better understanding of manure's value. With some start up support from the North Central Region Water Network, our group proposes to: 1) summarize the current state of knowledge on the role of manure in soil health; 2) distribute this knowledge to those influencing manure and soil management decisions; and 3) identify future research and education needs to advance our knowledge.
  • Complete several comprehensive reviews of literature on MaSH related topics (available late summer 2017).
  • Host web-based roundtable discussions to tap into the current knowledge of researchers and practitioners (archived presentations are now available).
  • Capture and summarize this knowledge through the MaSH blog (started March 2017).
Learn more here.
Regional Soil Health Capacity Building
Many conventional farmers don't believe that improving soil health can improve their bottom line. Fewer still believe that changes they can make will improve the ability of their fields to mitigate climate variability or to protect water quality. Farmers who try a few practices (e.g. cover crops, no-till) often give up after the first few years, due to challenges in controlling the cover crop or managing crop residue, or because of perceived yield losses/increased pest problems. Many first line professionals, such as Extension educators, Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD) staff and Certified Crop Advisors (CCA), don't have the advanced knowledge, training, or tools to adequately assist these farmers. There is also minimal collaboration from these professionals across the region on addressing the problem and finding a beneficial solution on how to educate growers on soil health.
Intended Impacts
The project will create a North Central Soil Health Work Group with representatives from Land Grant Universities across the 12 state region. The work team members will participate in a soil health conference to improve their knowledge in soil health and develop a common body of knowledge and accepted science that will be used in developing the regional framework to address soil health education. This team will be the foundation for an ongoing collaborative multi state network that's goal is to increase the visibility and understanding of soil health for Extension educators, agency professionals, agronomists, Certified Crop Advisors and farmers in the North Central Region. The team will develop and deliver soil health education at field days, workshops, webinars and printed resources.
Learn more here.


Paul Gross
Michigan State University Extension

Rick Koelsch
University of Nebraska-Lincoln



Leadership Spotlight

Each month we call attention to a significant state-led project and associated leadership team member from our Network. These spotlights demonstrate the diversity of ongoing water research and outreach projects in our region. Please contact your state's North Central Region Water Network Leadership Team member for details on the projects in your area. 

Transforming Agricultural Drainage 

Drained cropland in the North Central Region is some of the most productive land in the world. But in any given year, such land is still at risk to both water excess, causing water quality concerns, and water deficit, limiting crop productivity. Future climate change is expected to bring more intense rainfall and prolonged summer droughts, making problems worse. Storing drained water within the landscape can increase the sustainability of water for agriculture, producing positive impacts for crop production as well as the environment.

Transforming Drainage is a project led by researchers and extension specialists along  with collaborators from ten states in the Midwest plus North Carolina with a common vision: to transform the way drainage is implemented across the agricultural landscape. Field research is one component of the project, and the team has brought together 167 years of data from 35 different sites in a common database. (See map.) Support for the enhancement or development of tools for transforming drainage is another project goal. The Agricultural Conservation Planning Framework  has developed a component for siting saturated buffers, and tools are being developed for siting controlled drainage and for determining pond sizes for drainage water recycling.
The project websit e provides access to many educational resources to advance drainage storage practices such as a new Extension publication called " Questions and Answers About Drainage Water Recycling for the Midwest ", a video training series on drainage water management , and summaries of various strategies for storing drainage water for greater resilience. We invite you to visit the website and join us in transforming agricultural drainage.  

Jane Frankenburger, Purdue University

Jane Frankenberger is a Professor in Agricultural and Biological Engineering at Purdue University. She earned a B.A. in Physics from St. Olaf College, an M.S. in Agricultural Engineering from the University of Minnesota, and a Ph.D. in Agricultural and Biological Engineering from Cornell University. Before joining the ABE Department in 1996, she spent eight years working in Africa, both in the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) and in Senegal. In 2002-2003, she worked at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Washington D.C. Jane is responsible for the Purdue Extension program in soil and water engineering and water management and currently serves as the Extension Water Quality Coordinator. 

Jane Frankenberger, Ph.D.
(765) 494-1194


Blue Mind 7: The Seven Ages of Water
Stevens Point, WI. April 4-6, 2017
In conjunction with the 2017 Wisconsin Lakes Partnership Convention, Stevens Point will also be hosting a unique summit curated by the keynote speaker, Wallace J. Nichols.  BLUE MIND 7: The Seven Ages of Water  is the seventh annual convening of interdisciplinary professionals working at the intersection of brain science and conservation that has resulted in the New York Times best seller,  Blue Mind: The Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected and Better at What You Do  by Dr. Wallace J Nichols.  More info.

2017 Wisconsin Lakes Partnership Convention
Stevens Point, WI. April 5 - April 7, 2017
Did you know that the human body undergoes remarkable changes every   time you go underwater? The heart rate slows and the cardiovascular system shifts gears, allowing people to hold their breath much longer than they can above land. Did you also know that, even when controlling for all other variables, people who live near lakes, rivers and oceans experience significant benefits in terms of happiness, longevity, and absence of diseases? These are just some of the many fascinating ways that being near, in, on, and under water affects people. We invite you to take a closer look at these phenomena during the 2017 Wisconsin Lakes Partnership Convention in Stevens Point April 5-7 as we "go deeper" and explore the mind-body-water connection. More info.

2017 Water for Food Global Conference
Lincoln, NE. April 10 - April 12, 2017
The 2017 Water for Food Global Conference theme, "Water for Food Security: From Local Lessons to Global Impacts," is based on the premise that global breakthroughs come from local action. This conference will apply that perspective to the work being done to ensure water and food security for future generations.  The conference will feature plenary and parallel sessions to explore the research, technology and educational approaches that are advancing food and water security for our world.  Join leading researchers, producers, business managers, government and non-governmental organization directors, students and other participants from across the U.S. and around the world for three days of learning, sharing and networking. More info.

Webinar: Hot Geography: Lessons from the Frontline of the Climate, Water, and Health Crisis in the American West
Thursday, April 13, 2017
Local leadership in addressing the climate crisis is more important than ever before. Join this webinar to hear about the successes and lessons learned from areas dealing with some of the worst climate-related water challenges and how we can apply these to protect public health in our own communities.  Join the presenters as they: s hare stories of crisis and creativity from the leading edge of the water and health crisis in the West, p rovide insights into potential future challenges in our communities, and i dentify a list of key actions that water leaders can take to protect public health in the face of climate-related water crisis. More info.

EPA's Water Quality Modeling Webinar: "Introduction to SWAT"
Thursday, April 20, 2017
EPA's Water Quality Modeling Workgroup is hosting a series of webinars to help water quality professionals better understand surface water quality modeling and how models can be used to solve common problems that face water quality regulators. The webinars are focused on modeling as it applies to the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), Standards, and Water Quality Permitting Programs, but they are applicable to a wide range of audiences. These two hour webinars cover everything from modeling basics (e.g., model setup and calibration) to applied water quality modeling of different pollutants. More info.

Michigan Lake and Stream Associations 56th Annual Conference
Thompsonville, MI. April 21, 2017 - April 22, 2017
Since 1961, the ML&SA Annual Conference has presented a unique and rewarding opportunity for lake users and property owners, citizen scientists, commercial and non-profit business representatives and lake management professionals to engage and exchange ideas focused on preserving and protecting the health and value of Michigan's priceless inland lakes and streams for future generations.  The theme of the 56th ML&SA Annual Conference is "Bridging the Resource Gaps: Enhancing the Ability of Lakefront Communities to Prevent and Manage Aquatic Invasive Species". The conference will include workshops and a diverse array of presentations given by expert speakers focusing on providing participants with the knowledge, information, and ideas they need to improve the collective ability of their lakefront communities to prevent and/or manage aquatic invasive species. More info.

Do You Know of an Upcoming Water- or Conservation-Related Event in the Midwest? Add it to the NCRWN Website  Here

Funding and Other Opportunities

Cooperative Program for Atmospheric Science Education 
NOAA's Office of Education (OED) is requesting applications to establish an institutional award for a Cooperative Program for Atmospheric Science Education. This institutional award will support a long-term partnership with an organization of atmospheric science professionals with the capacity to offer and support (1) sustained professional development at a national scale for K-12 educators and the faculty and staff who educate pre-service teachers and (2) scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students in atmospheric and related ocean and hydrologic sciences who are recruited from or plan to matriculate at accredited 4-year colleges and universities in the United States and its territories. Learn more.

The purpose of the IR-4 program is to enable the crop protection industry to provide safe, effective, and economical crop protection products for growers and consumers of minor/specialty crops. The crop protection industry cannot justify the costs associated with the research and development, registration, production, and marketing of crop protection products for minor/specialty crops due to the smaller market base and limited sales potential. The IR-4 program provides the assistance needed to ensure that new and more effective crop protection products are developed and made available to minor/specialty crop producers. These efforts require effective collaborations among federal agencies, the crop protection industry, and land-grant colleges and universities. Applications are due by May 1, 2017. Learn more.

Agriculture and Food Research Initiative - Food Safety Challenge Area
This AFRI Challenge Area promotes and enhances the scientific discipline of food safety, with an overall aim of protecting consumers from microbial and chemical contaminants that may occur during all stages of the food chain, from production to consumption. The long-term outcome for this program is to support the development and deployment of science based knowledge to improve the safety and nutritional quality of food without sacrificing flavor, acceptability, and affordability. In order to achieve this outcome, this program will support multi-function Integrated Research, Education, and/or Extension Projects, and Food and Agricultural Science Enhancement (FASE) Grants that address the Program Area Priority, Effective Mitigation Strategies for Antimicrobial Resistance (see Food Safety RFA for details). Applications due by June 21, 2017.  Learn more.

In Case You Missed it...

The Current  is a speed networking webinar series for professionals engaged in water-related extension, research, and conservation activities. The North Central Region Water Network and Extension Directors from all 12 North Central states are sponsoring this series to highlight the best water-related research and Extension programming in the region. Webinars will run for 60 minutes, with three 10-minute project snapshots and 30 minutes of QA/peer-to-peer interaction.

Upcoming: The Current 27 - Nitrogen Management in Tile Drained Landscapes
April 19, 2017, 2:00-3:00 CT
  • Laura Christianson, University of Illinois
  • Jane Frankenberger, Purdue University
  • Chris Hay, Iowa Soybean Association

Past: The Current Webinar 26 - Managing Onsite Septic Systems: Research and Outreach 
February 15, 2017, 2:00-3:00 CT
  • Dave Gustafson, University of Minnesota. Presentation: Minnesota's Perspective on Connecting System Owners to System Performance
  • Steve Safferman, Michigan State University. Presentation: Phosphorous in Onsite Wastewater: Pollutant to Resource


Wisconsin Farmer Wins National Conservation Award
The American Soybean Association (ASA) presented Andy Bensend, from Dallas, Wis., with the 2017 National Conservation Legacy Award during the annual ASA Awards Banquet on Friday, March 3, at Commodity Classic in San Antonio.  Prior to Andy Bensend's recognition as the program's national winner, he was named the Midwest Regional winner of the Conservation Legacy Award. The national award winner is chosen from three regional winners. The other 2017 regional winners were Keith Masser, Sacramento, Pa. (Northeast Region) and Matt Griggs, Humboldt, Tenn. (South Region). View here.


Regional EPA Chief Says Water Is A Top Concern
The leader of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the Midwest says clean water may be the top issue he hears about from the public.  Robert Kaplan  became acting administrator of EPA Region 5 when the previous regional administrator resigned during the water controversy in Flint, Michigan. Kaplan told a Environmental Law and Policy Center conference in Madison, WI this week that concerns about water across the Midwest haven't gone away.  "Everywhere I go people want clean water. It might be the No. 1 thing we talk about. Even if we're there to talk about air or some other matter, it always comes back to water," Kaplan said. View here.

Getting the Lead Out: Midwest Cities Take Different Tacks
Cities across the Midwest are pushing to increase protections for their drinking water from lead contamination as federal and state regulators work on new rules to strengthen standards.   However, the current administration's proposal to delegate more regulatory authority to the states while simultaneously cutting grants to help them run their environmental programs could hamper those efforts.  Midwestern cities, especially those with aging water infrastructure, are wrestling with how to pay for drinking water improvements in light of EPA plans to update its lead and copper rule by the end of 2017. Passing on the cost of improvements to ratepayers is one option. Raising taxes, selling municipal bonds, and obtaining state or federal low-interest loans or outright grants and other awards are other tools cities have at their disposal.  View here.

Tighter Wastewater Regulations Can Lead To Fewer Earthquakes In The Midwest
While scientists have gained a clearer understanding of what's causing recent earthquakes in the Great Plains, they haven't reached a point where people can let their guard down. That's according to Heather DeShon, associate professor and seismologist at Southern Methodist University.  "The earthquakes in Oklahoma and parts of Kansas ... have been linked to a process called wastewater injection," she says. In that process, large volumes of salty, briny water are deposited into cavities in deep rock layers, says DeShon. "That has set up pressure fronts within those subsurface layers," she says, and those pressure fronts can interact with preexisting faults and cause temblors.  With this link in mind, some states have started to take action. View here.

'Weather Whiplash' Triggered by Changing Climate will Degrade Midwest's Drinking Water
One consequence of global climate change is the likelihood of more extreme seesawing between drought and flood, a phenomenon dubbed "weather whiplash." Now, researchers at the University of Kansas have published findings in the journal Biogeochemistry showing weather whiplash in the American Midwest's agricultural regions will drive the deterioration of water quality, forcing municipalities to seek costly remedies to provide safe drinking water to residents.  View here.

Release of Manure and Soil Health Blog
This will be a monthly article with the purpose of defining the current state of the science related to manure's impact on soil health.  A team of university and NRCS professionals from the North Central region are initiating several educational activities addressing MaSH topics including this blog. View the first blog post here.
Learn more about NCRWN

NCRWN Fact Sheet
Want to see what we have been up to in the North Central Region Water Network? Check out our fact sheet for more details. 

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We work together to expand and enhance multi-state water outreach and research efforts across the North Central Region of the United States.

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