July   2015 Newsletter 
North Central Region Water Network
Extension-led, community-driven outreach and education
Director's Update


From Science to Success - An Introduction


The Morrill Act of 1862 established land-grant institutions of higher education in the United States. The purpose of these institutions was and is, "without excluding other scientific and classical studies, and including military tactics, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts, in such manner as the legislatures of the States may respectively prescribe, in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life." The Smith-Lever Act of 1914 established cooperative extension services as mechanisms to expand access to the resources of the land-grants even further. 


Many scholars have established that the intent of those behind the land-grant movement was to improve the quality of life for working class citizens in rural America, largely related to the professions of farming and homemaking as well as becoming more informed and engaged participants in our young democracy. The science generated at the time was rarely an end unto itself. It helped people grow more corn, cotton, and cattle and keep sufficient and safe food on the table.


Land-grant institutions continue to carry this mission forward. However, new knowledge is generated at head-spinning speed, making it harder to keep up with the job of translating science to practice.  This challenge is not unique to water resource management.  An article published in the journal Nature in 2008 about the "valley of death" that exists between biomedical research and medical treatments for patients is still relevant in medicine, and it is certainly relevant for many aspects of water resource management.


The North Central Region Water Network's spring conference (March 21-23, 2016) will provide some compelling food for thought on this topic, as well as time for us to work together on ways to move from science to success on high priority water-related topics such as stormwater management, climate change, irrigation management, drainage water management, and science and civic engagement for youth.


A recently published paper by Michael Dahlstrom (Greenlee School of Journalism at Iowa State University) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences sheds light on one facet of the science to success conversation. He helps us consider how scientists and educators can effectively and ethically incorporate narratives and storytelling into our communication and educational programs. 


Dahlstrom's piece is just a taste of the ideas that can help us continue to fulfill the promise of the land-grant mission by translating science for those that can benefit from it.  Have your own ideas or resources? Please post them in the comments section of this article on our Network blog.


And two other important items:
  • For all you Extension folks out there, remember that the North Central Region Water Network's second 2015 Request for Applications is waiting for you! $100,000 in seed funding available. Applications due August 14, 2015!
  • SAVE THE DATE! The North Central Region Water Network's second conference and regional working session will be March 21-23, 2016 in Lincoln, NE.  Theme: "From Science To Success. More details coming soon!



Rebecca Power, Network Director


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Network Initiatives
For the next several months we will take a closer look at the 2014 & 2015 initiatives. For more information on these, visit our  Network Initiatives Page.

Stormwater Core Curriculum

Human activity on the landscape has drastically changed the natural hydrologic cycle by concentrating much of the output into surface water as excessive runoff. Some consequences of excessive runoff are flash flooding, loss of property and significant water quality degradation. Since the 1980s, a national effort called green infrastructure has focused on remedying the problem by providing a series of tools to minimize the impact of our developments by mimicking natural hydrology. 

Recently, there has been expanded and rapid growth in the number of publicly available stormwater educational programs for professionals and communities that focus on green infrastructure tools (referred to as best management practices). However, much of the growth is home based and addresses specific local needs and issues. Until now, a publicly available, uniform and comprehensive stormwater core curriculum has been missing. A collaborative group of stormwater educators are now leading the effort to develop a program to address this need.

Intended Impacts

The goal of this collaborative is to develop publicly available, uniform, research based, stormwater core curriculum that can be readily used by educators, local governments and professionals.


This course will enable managers and educators to learn stormwater basics and the skills to teach others (such as departmental staff).

Project Contacts:


Eleanor Burkett
Extension Educator, University of Minnesota
(218) 828-2326 


Shahram Missaghi, PhD
Extension Educator, University of Minnesota
(952) 221-1333 

Leadership Spotlight: University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension

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. 


Nebraska Extension faculty address water quantity and quality issues relevant to communities, youth and agriculture.  This article will share examples of those programs that target water use in agriculture.  With one of the largest aquifers in the world and more irrigated acres than any state in the United States, sustainable water use for irrigation is critical to Nebraska's future.


Nebraska Agricultural Water Management Network (MAWMN)

NAWMN targets adoption of practices and technologies that enhance crop water use efficiency with a current emphasis on application of soil moisture sensors, evapotranspiration gages, and crop growth state monitoring. A team of Extension faculty and Natural Resource District staff, led by Suat Irmak, collaborate in the Network's extensive demonstration and educational efforts. With 1,200 farmer cooperators managing 1.7 million acres in 2014 engaged in this Network, it is the largest water management network in the United States.  The project has reduced pumping by 1 million acre feet of water since its inception and recently received the USDA NIFA Innovative Programs and Partners Award. Click here for more information or contact project leader Suat Irmak.


Project SENSE

Nebraska Extension's On-Farm Research Network is launching Project SENSE (Sensors for Efficient Nitrogen Use and Stewardship of the Environment) in 2015 with 17 on-farm sites to evaluate and demonstrate crop canopy sensors to direct variable-rate, in-season nitrogen application in corn.  A 2012 demonstration of this technology under irrigated conditions reduced application rate by 163 and 175 lb. of nitrogen/acre at two Central Nebraska sites while demonstrating no significant difference in yield. Click here for more information or contact Richard Ferguson or Laura Thompson.


Cutting Edge Soil Moisture Technology

Innovative neutron sensor technology has the capability to optimize seeding rates and variety selection in rain-fed crop fields and timing of water application in irrigated field.  Current soil moisture sensor provide measures of soil moisture status at a single location in a field.  Neutron sensor technology can deliver spatially-based estimates of soil moisture status. As the sensor moves across a field, it takes a measurement every minute and sees a 1,000' radius circle, shooting about 1' into the ground. This technology is being field evaluated by commercial producers in 2015. Click here for more information or contact Trenton Franz.

Impacts of Cover Crops on Water, Energy Balance and Soil Quality
In rainfall deficit regions, the soil quality benefits of cover crops must be balanced against the evapotranspiration costs of a cover crop. The degree to which cover crops impact water use and associated hydrologic balances are essentially unknown. A large scale, multi-field research initiative at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is investigating how cover crops affect soil quality, water balance, evapotranspiration, and crop coefficients. Click here for more information or contact project leader Suat Irmak.


Irrigation Water Use Mobile Apps

Having the right data at your fingertips is critical to making sound irrigation decisions impacting water use and energy costs. Nebraska Extension faculty have created four mobile apps:

  • The Water Meter Calculator App calculates the amount of water pumped by irrigation pumping plants and tracks total water pumped for the irrigation season, the remaining allocation for future years, and the annual cap remaining.
  • The UNL Crop Water App provides an easy way to estimate soil water status based on Watermark sensors readings. The Crop Water app will estimate the water still available for Nebraska soils and charts your field's soil water status over time.
  • Irrigation Pumping Plant Efficiency Calculator App can help you identify irrigation pumping plants that are underperforming and need to be adjusted, repaired, or replaced with a better design.
  • IrrigateCost App computes the annualized costs of owning and operating an irrigation system. These calculations can be beneficial prior to developing land for irrigation as well as determining fair lease agreements on irrigated leased land.
Chemigation and  Certification program
Two on-line certification programs targeting chemigation and nitrogen management under irrigation have been designed to address Nebraska public policy expectations. Chemigation program targets chemical application through the irrigation system and protection of the well water supply.  Irrigation nitrogen management certification stresses groundwater protection from nitrogen application. Additional information is available by clicking on Chemigation Certification or Irrigation Nitrogen Management or by contacting Bill Kranz .


West Central Water Resources Field Laboratory (WRFL)

Access to field scale laboratory facilities provides a unique opportunity for field evaluation and demonstration of emerging technologies and practices.  UNL's 1,280 acre Water Resources Field Laboratory bridges researcher and extension educator needs for applying and teaching water conserving methods in cropping and livestock systems under limited water resources conditions of western Nebraska. Projects include Efficacy of Drought Tolerant Corn; Manure Utilization and Nitrogen Sensors; Grazing Forages/Cover Crops Impact on Water Balance; Baling & Grazing Residue - Impact on Cattle Performance, Soil Physical Properties & Yield; and Variable Rate Irrigation and Nitrogen Application.  Contact Chuck Burr for additional information.



Rick Koelsch
University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension

Rick Koelsch is the Associate Dean for Extension programs at the University of Nebraska. He is primarily responsible for extension programs in agriculture, natural resources, and community development. He is engaged in facilitation of extension action teams, impact assessment and evaluation, distance learning and internet technology application in Extension.


Rick is a member of the Departments of Biological Systems Engineering and Animal Science where he has extension and research responsibilities for livestock environmental related issues. He continues to maintain national leadership of a Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Center that hosts a national eXtension web site and a monthly web seminar on animal manure issues. In the past he has been actively engaged in regional and national leadership roles specific to this issue and with American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers. He received an M.S. in Agricultural Engineering from Kansas State University and a PhD in Ag and Biological Engineering (major)/Animal Science (minor) from Cornell University.


Rick Koelsch, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension, 211 Ag Hall, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE 68583-0703, (402)472-2966,(402)499-2183, [email protected]

The Current Webinar Series
Our  w ebinar series is your connection to our Network and water outreach, research and collaboration efforts across the North Central Region. Designed for busy working professionals like yourself, the webinars are only an hour and won't take up much space on your calendar. We hope you will join the conversation. 

Please visit our webinar overview page for details on upcoming and past webinars. 

The Current Webinar 11:  Agricultural Irrigation Management
August 19, 2015 2:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m. CT
  • Joshua Stamper, Irrigation Extension Specialist, University of Minnesota: Validating Variable Rate Irrigation Prescriptions
  • John Panuska, Natural Resource and Bio Environmental Engineer, University of Wisconsin-Madison and Becky Larson, Assistant Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison: Irrigation Activities in Wisconsin
  • Joshua Stamper, Irrigation Extension Specialist, University of Minnesota: Outcomes from Irrigation Capacity Building Workshop for Irrigation Professionals in the North Central Region 
Past Webinars:
If you happened to miss one of our webinars in 2014 or 2015, be sure to visit our webinar archive page to get caught up on the latest from our Network. You can also view these by going directly to our NEW NCRWN YouTube Page.   Thank you!

2015 Annual Soil and Water Conservation Society Conference
Greensboro, North Carolina: July 26, 2015-July 29, 2015
The 70th Annual Soil and Water Conservation Society (SWCS) Conference will provide a forum to celebrate past conservation accomplishments as well as share and promote science-based knowledge on critical, current issues facing soil, water, and environmental sustainability. Learn more here.

Ag Drainage Water Management Webinar Series by USDA-NRCS
Webinars: July 22 - December 16, 2015
Agricultural drainage water management and drainage water quality are the topics of a series of webinars recently developed by a team of extension specialists from several Upper Midwest universities. The webinars will be presented monthly from July through December.  The webinars will provide best management practices for improving drainage water quality and information from multiple states across the Midwest. They are structured to provide both the perspective of the farmer/practitioner and the research/extension specialist.   The six one-hour webinars will be held at 9 a.m. Central Time on the following Wednesdays: July 22, Aug. 19, Sept. 16, Oct. 21, Nov. 18 and Dec. 16.  Learn more here.

StormCon: The North American Surface Water Quality Expo 
Austin, TX: August 2-6, 2015
The largest stormwater pollution prevention conference and exposition.  The North American Surface Water Quality Conference & Exposition is an event that helps the professionals and experts from the water industry to connect and network with each other and to learn about the latest developments and new advancements that have been produced in the sector.  Vibrant entertainment and culture, inspiring cuisine and stunning outdoor settings combined with the longest running and best stormwater pollution prevention conference program in the world, StormCon Austin once again tops the list of must do events. Learn more here.

EPA-USDA National Workshop on Water Quality Markets
September 15-17, 2015
USDA and EPA are cosponsoring a National Workshop on Water Quality Markets. This event is hosted by the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute at the University of Nebraska and coordinated by The Conservation Fund. The Workshop will highlight recent progress in water quality trading across the country with an emphasis on policy, resources, and tool development. The Workshop will provide EPA and USDA with an opportunity to lay out their vision for the role of water quality markets in advancing conservation and water quality goals, and provide you with the tools to engage in water quality markets. Learn more here.

SAVE THE DATE! NCRWN Conference 2016   
"From Science to Success"
Lincoln, Nebraska: March 21-23, 2016
Save the date for the North Central Region Water Network's 2016 Conference "From Science to Success". Check back for details here.
Funding Opportunities

Small Business Innovation Research Program

Deadline: Thursday, October 8, 2015

USDA SBIR's flexible research areas ensure innovative projects consistent with USDA's vision of a healthy and productive nation in harmony with the land, air, and water. USDA SBIR Program has awarded over 2000 research and development projects since 1983, allowing hundreds of small businesses to explore their technological potential, and providing an incentive to profit from the commercialization of innovative ideas. More info.


Climate and Societal Interactions Fact Sheet 2016

The Climate and Societal Interactions (CSI) Program provides leadership on decision support research, assessments, and climate services development activities to help society adapt to a changing climate. CSI supports both U.S. and internationally focused projects to facilitate community building and learning about challenges and solutions associated with understanding and meeting the climate-related needs of decision makers. More info.


McKnight Foundation - Mississippi River Program

August 1 for November consideration,  November 1 for February consideration

The McKnight Foundation, a Minnesota-based family foundation, seeks to improve the quality of life for present and future generations. Through grant making, collaboration, and encouragement of strategic policy reform, we use our resources to attend, unite, and empower those we serve.  More info.

In Case You Missed it...
The Current Webinar 10:
 Harmful Algal Bloom
  • Chris Winslow, Interim Director, Ohio Sea Grant College Program:
    Harmful Algal Blooms: What are they? Where do they come from? What are we doing in HAB research?
  • Greg LaBarge, Ohio State University Extension:
    OSU Nutrient Management Outreach Education Programs Addressing Harmful Algal Blooms in Lake Erie
  • Sonia Joseph Joshi, Center for Excellence for Great Lakes and Human Health, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:
    NOAA's Harmful Algal Bloom Forecasting Products

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Our Mission:

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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