February 2016 Newsletter 
North Central Region Water Network
Extension-led, community-driven outreach and education
Director's Update
It's warming up here in the North Country. El Niño brought us a warmer than average winter and spring is quickly arriving on our doorsteps. Male cardinals are singing loudly (and early) in the oak trees around my house. But as flamboyant as they are in staking out their territory, there is a different sign of spring that causes me to stand, paused on my front porch, for a few long luxurious breaths. For the first time in months, I can smell the soil. It's a miraculous transformation as the earth begins to thaw and breath again. 

We now know that bacteria living in the soil create this delicious smell. They are critical components of carbon and nitrogen cycles, indispensible builders of soil that help crops withstand extreme moisture and temperature conditions and strengthen the performance of new seed varieties. 

In the North Central Region, extension educators are looking to strengthen their ability to serve farmers, crop consultants, watershed managers and others by forming a new regional soil health team. The team met for the first time at the February 2-3 Iowa State University Soil Health Conference, supported by seed funding from the North Central Region Water Network. Conference presenters summarized the state-of-the-science and provided participants with ample opportunity for dialog on how to increase adoption of practices that protect and enhance soil health. Members of the developing North Central Region soil health team build on that information and experiences in their own states to begin drafting a plan for team operation and products. 

You can learn more about this developing team by contacting Kevin Erb, Conservation Professional Training Coordinator at the University of Wisconsin-Extension or by listening to The Current webinar on April 20 at 2pm central time.

Important Item:

North Central Region Water Network Conference
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. "  Please visit our website  for more information and to register.

Call for photos! 
You see amazing things. Every day. We want to see what you see - whether it's people working hard for cleaner water, a new generation of water researchers or water stewards, or a beautiful sunset over your favorite lake. We want to see your originals . These images will be used during the upcoming North Central Region Water Network 2016 conference and will be repurposed for future North Central Region Water Network newsletters, webinars, on the website, and other educational materials. We have created five categories but feel free to create your own. Submit up to 5 of and encourage your colleagues to submit theirs as well! 

Photographers often see what is invisible to the human eye, hidden, or taken for granted. Take us further, to what is beyond the surface.

Please submit in the following categories: 
  1. Recreational Water Use
  2. Water at Work
  3. Water at Risk
  4. Water Research and Extension
  5. The Beauty of Water 
Please fill in your info here and access instructions will be sent to you:  Photo Upload Access


Rebecca Power, Network Director


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

Climate Change and Water for Agriculture Education for Extension Professionals: A Webinar Series

Water management in North Central Region agricultural systems is the focus of the Climate Change and Water for Agriculture Education for Extension Professionals project. Farmers and producers are already adapting to short-term weather, climate and water extremes (Haigh, 2015; Morton, 2015). The goal here is to encourage producers to consider longer term risk management in light of projected climate change impacts. The National Climate Assessment (2014)  outlined several water-related risks in the Great Plains and Midwest regions related to water, such as increasing extreme precipitation events and flooding; reduced water quality; increase in erosion; decline in water quality in the Great Lakes; increase in population leading to increase in demand for water; more intense droughts in the Great   Plains. Temperatures are warming overall, but there are seasonal and sub-regional geographic differences to account for. All of these (and more) are factors that Extension staff can understand, but perhaps never had the opportunity to learn.
In the Sustainable Corn Coordinated Agricultural Project  (CAP) ( ) and Grazing CAP ( ) projects funded by USDA NIFA, some adaptation and mitigation practices in corn-based cropping systems and grazing systems have been considered for research, as well as methods for educating or training our peers in Extension. Recommended best management practices for adapting to or mitigating impacts due to a changing climate in these agricultural systems are coming soon. They will include water management practices for quality and quantity.
Building off of research and extension lessons learned and collaborations with the Corn CAP, Grazing CAP and the USDA Regional Climate Hubs, webinars will be offered to address the following topics:

  • What is weather? What is climate? Historical climate trends in the NC region, historical extremes.
  • Projected future climate trends and extremes in the NC region. Impacts on agricultural systems, water management.
  • Economics of water management practices that can adapt to or mitigate climate change impacts, e.g. tile drainage, bioreactors, sub-irrigation, irrigation.
  • Role of precision agriculture, climate "big" data, private agriculture/climate data providers (e.g. Climate Corporation, Encircle products).
  • Livestock and grazing, drought management and planning, livestock water supply, risk management (e.g., Pasture, Range, Forage-Rainfall Index insurance).
  • Using watershed groups as learning communities, the Corn CAP model for Extension engagement on the topic of climate change, climate change communication with ag audiences (Wilke, in press)  
Laura Edwards
SDSU Extension, Extension Climate Field Specialist
(605) 626 - 2870


Leadership Spotlight: North Dakota State University
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. 

Determining The Economic Response of Sodic Soils to Remediation by Gypsum, Elemental Sulfur and Versalime in Northest North Dakota on Tiled Fields

By:  Naeem Kalwar (Extension Area Specialist/Soil Health)

Soil salinity and sodicity are two major soil health issues facing North Dakota producers throughout the State. Brennan J. and M. Ulmer reported 5.8 million saline acres in North Dakota (Salinity in the Northern Great Plains, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Bismarck, N.D. 2010). That is a result of high salt and sodium levels in the soil parent material and the underlying sodium-rich shale (present in the bedrock below the soil sediments). Rising water-table levels and resulting capillary rise of soil water then leads to the accumulation of excessive salts and sodium within the plant root zone or at the soil surface.
Saline soils will have excessive soluble salts in the soil solution high enough to limit the ability of plant roots to absorb soil water even under wet conditions, causing drought like symptoms ("osmotic effect").  Salts, however, result in higher amounts of positively charged ions like calcium (Ca++) and magnesium (Mg++) that promote flocculation by moving in close to the negatively charged particles, thereby reducing their tendency to disintegrate or disperse from each other (The Nature and Properties of Soils, Nyle C. Brady and Ray R. Weil, 14th Edition, Revised). Flocculation of soil particles keeps soil structure in good physical condition resulting in better soil porosity and creating conditions conducive for improved soil water infiltration and drainage.
In contrast to saline soils, sodic soils have excessive levels of sodium ions (Na+) adsorbed at the soil cation exchange sites (mainly clay). Soil sodicity causes degradation of soil structure by causing "dispersion" that is opposite of flocculation. Forces that hold clay particles together are greatly weakened when excessive Na+ is adsorbed at the negative charges of soil clay particles, forming Na+-clay particles (Seelig, 2000). When wet, Na+-clay particles get easily disintegrated from the larger soil aggregates. Also, due to the larger hydrated size of Na+ ions, Na+-clay particles clog the soil pores (especially macro-pores) and settle down in dense layers (The Nature and Properties of Soils, 14th Edition, revised). Once that happens, it severely impedes soil drainage.
Remediation of soil sodicity requires an extra step of applying amendments that supply Ca ++ directly or indirectly followed by salinity remediation practices of improving soil drainage and lowering the water-table level. Ca ++ displaces Na + from the cation exchange sites and Na + moves into soil solution where it converts into a salt (Na 2SO 4) and leaches out. Common soil amendments include gypsum, elemental sulfur, sulfuric acid, calcium chloride, calcium nitrate and calcium carbonate or lime (for acidic soils).
The basic purpose of a drainage system is to drain the excess soil water out of the plant root zone as quickly as possible depending upon the soil type. To achieve that objective, soils should be analyzed for soluble salts and sodium prior to tiling. Analyzing for sodium is especially important as it can lead to the sealing of soil layers above or around the tiles, thus making the drainage system ineffective. Question for producers considering tiling could be:
Can they successfully improve soil drainage by tiling their sodic or saline-sodic soils before remediating sodicity?
The Langdon REC had a saline-sodic site well suited for the research of this question and other soil and water management issues. To replicate field conditions, it was decided to tile the project site prior to starting sodicity remediation by applying soil amendments that are suitable and easily available to northeast North Dakota growers. After several meetings between NDSU Ag. Engineers, tile drainage design engineer, tiling company, local extension agents and Langdon REC staff, project layout was finalized to achieve research and extension objectives. Area growers and stakeholders quickly endorsed and supported this project and within a six month period over $90,000 was donated for the project. Installation of the tiles began on July 17th, 2014.
The layout includes dedicated plots for research trials and extension demonstrations. Research area includes four treatments (plots) in each replication with three replications. Treatment size is 325' x 80'. Each treatment has four, 4" laterals, placed 4' deep along with a water control structure. To minimize the subsoil flow from the neighboring treatments, each treatment was surrounded by a 10-12 mm thick, 5' deep plastic barrier. Extension area includes 4 plots of 150' x 150'. Each plots has four, 4" laterals, placed 3.5' deep with a water control structure.
  • The first objective is to find out whether tiling can be successful on sodic or saline-sodic soils prior to sodicity remediation.
  • The second objective is to compare the relationship between varying water table levels and resulting salt and sodium levels.
  • The third objective is to analyze water samples from lift station, upstream and downstream for human and livestock health.

Naeem Kalwar, Extension Area Specialist in Soil Health, North Dakota State University
Naeem has been working as an Extension Area Specialist in Soil Health for North Dakota State University since March 2012. He is based at the Langdon Research Extension Center.
Naeem is part of the NDSU "Soil Health Initiative Group" tasked with helping producers solve their soil health issues. His primary priorities include increasing awareness regarding soil salinity, sodicity, high water-tables and rapidly declining soil organic matter levels. He also helps producers implement remediation practices.
Naeem received his first Masters in Soil Science from Sindh Agriculture University in Tandojam, Sindh, Pakistan and served as a Technical Services Officer with Engro Chemical Pakistan Ltd from August 1995 through May 2006, before immigrating to Canada. Prior to joining NDSU, Naeem completed his second Masters in Land Resource Science at University of Guelph's School of Environmental Sciences. He completed his degree in 2010.
Naeem Kalwar
Langdon Research Extension Center
9280 107th Avenue NE
Langdon, ND 58249
(701) 256-2582, ext. 113

The Current Webinar 16: Innovative Approaches to Manure  Management
  • Jeffrey Jacquet, Sociology and Rural Studies, South Dakota State University
    The Pathways for Information Transfer Among Manure Nutrient Management Professionals
  • Mary Wicks, Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, The Ohio State University,
    Evolution of the Manure Expo for Manure Nutrient Management Education
  • Shelby Burlew, the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP)
  • View my videos on YouTube

The Current Webinar series will return on April 20, 2016: "Developing a Land-grant Institution Soil Health Network in the North Central Region"


Free Online Training Opportunity : Online Tool to Develop Owner's Guides/Management Plans
Webinar: March 2, 2016
Newly developed free software is available that allows wastewater professionals to generate an owner guide customized for an individual client's system. This USDA grant funded project, led by the University of Minnesota (UMN), has developed a tool available at the website On March 2 and March 31 online training sessions will teach professionals how to use this new tool with a live demonstration.  Learn more here.
2016 Great Lakes Areas of Concern Conference 
Dearborn, Michigan: March 2-3, 2016
The Annual Meeting of the Great Lakes Areas of Concern community provides the opportunity to discuss the work done in the program and to connect with a wide variety of partners to continue making progress. Learn more here. 

From Science to Success: Bridging the Gap Between Knowledge and Practice in Water Resource Management
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  Learn more here. 

Iowa Water Conference
Ames, Iowa: March 23-24, 2016
The Iowa Water Conference is the largest outreach and collaboration effort of the Iowa Water Center and is designed to bring together multi-disciplinary organizations and institutions to discuss relevant water issues across Iowa. Learn more here. 

Funding Opportunities

NOAA Sea Grant Aquaculture Research Program 2016

Deadline: March 12, 2016
Depending on the availability of funds, NOAA Sea Grant expects to have up to $3,000,000 available for a national competition to fund new FY 2016 aquaculture research projects. This is part of the overall plan to support the development of environmentally and economically sustainable ocean, coastal, or Great Lakes aquaculture. Topical priorities for this FY 2016 competition are, briefly: a) Research to inform pending, regulatory decisions regarding aquaculture on the local, state, or federal level leading to an information product--such as a tool, technology, template, or model--needed to make final decisions on a specific question; b) Research that supports the introduction, and/or increase in production of new and emerging species of aquaculture interest; c) Research that supports continued seafood safety and product quality; and d) Social and/or economic research targeted to understand aquaculture issues in a larger context. Applicants must describe how their proposed work will rapidly and significantly advance U.S. aquaculture development in the short term (1-2 years after project completion).  More info here.

2016 Healthy Watersheds Consortium Grant Program 
Deadline: March 14, 2016
Up to $1.5 million is available for the 2016 initial grant round. Grants may be a subaward of federal financial assistance or non-federal funds, or a combination of both. Funding at about this level is anticipated to be available on an annual basis at or around this time each year through 2020. A review committee will make final project recommendations. Projects funded in this cycle must conclude no later than December 31, 2020. More info here.

Water Resources Research National Competitive Grants Program 
Deadline: March 17, 2016
The U.S. Geological Survey in cooperation with the National Institutes for Water Resources requests proposals for matching grants to support research on the topic of improving and enhancing the nations water supply, including but not limited to enhancement of water supply infrastructure, development of drought impact indicators, evaluation of the dynamics of extreme hydrological events and associated costs, development of methods for better estimation of the physical and economic supply of water, integrated management of ground and surface waters, the resilience of public water supplies, and the evaluation of conservation practices. More info here.

In Case You Missed it...

NCRWN Fact Sheet

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


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