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June 2016 Newsletter 
North Central Region Water Network
Extension-led, community-driven outreach and education
Director's Update
The Future of the North Central Region Water Network 

As those of you that follow us closely know, the North Central Region Water Network is 2 ½ years into a 3-year pilot. In 2013, Extension Directors across the North Central Region agreed to an experiment. The hypothesis behind this experiment is that extension can more effectively build capacity to address the big water challenges and opportunities of our time by working together. In October of this year, they will evaluate the evidence and determine whether the Network will move forward beyond the pilot end date in December. 

This month a group of North Central Region Water Network leaders met in Chicago to 1) examine the evidence ourselves, 2) determine which aspects of our current model we ought to keep, and 3) propose areas for change that we believe will result in the greatest positive impact. 

While we covered a lot of ground, two big ideas flowed through much of our work and the advice we've been getting from our colleagues and partners. These ideas will guide our proposal for the Network's future: 

Systems - One of the strengths that land-grant universities and extension is our ability to synthesize knowledge across diverse disciplines and users from agricultural engineers to farmers, from landscape architects to developers, from public administration to dedicated government employees and elected leaders and many more. Water permeates and impacts every aspect of human life. Land-grant universities can work with water users to deepen understanding of how water moves through and impacts agriculture, industry, communities, public health, recreation, local and regional cultural considerations, and other human needs. In addition, land-grant universities continue to have a local, state, multi-state, and national presence. In addition to synthesizing across knowledge areas, we can also support cross-scale integration of water research and educational programming. 

Impact -  In evaluating the first few years of the Network, it's clear that participating states are benefitting. New educators and specialists say they have a much bigger network and knowledge pool to draw from, and that innovations in one state are more readily available for replication in other states. We've got new curriculum, new needs assessments and program inventories, new training and new teams that can be accessed by multiple states. And finally, educators and specialists say they have enhanced their programming based on learning from other states. This is a great start.  Now we would like to leverage our networking culture in areas where we are best positioned to catalyze big improvements in water resource management within states and across the North Central Region.

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

Photo Credit: Eugene Braig, Ohio State University
Cove Island, Lake Huron


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Network Initiatives

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

Mapping the Pathways for Effective Dissemination and Education between Manure Nutrient Management Agriculture Professionals


While manure is recognized in the agricultural industry as a valuable source of nitrogen, phosphorus and organic material for plant growth, the point and non-point source discharge of nutrients and bacteria can be substantial if manure is not managed properly. To this end, a significant amount of effort and money has been put into development of manure nutrient management research and programs. Manure nutrient management is also part of several states' nitrogen and phosphorus reduction strategies for reducing the nutrient load on the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico (Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force, 2008; EPA, 2014).

There are barriers, however, that prevent the flow of important, timely information between research projects and educational programs and the appropriate audience type, thus limiting the impact and usefulness of those efforts. Additionally, education strategies differ between persons and projects (i.e. Shepard, 1999), organizations and regions meaning they need to be received by the end user in the correct format for effective implementation. Furthermore, the success of educational outreach and programs are affected by voluntary versus mandatory adoption (Poe et al., 2001), highlighting the need for tailored programing and content delivery. 


The overall goals of this project were to establish documented pathways for effective information dissemination and use among various agricultural professional audiences that facilitate successful integrated (research/outreach/education) projects and programs. The specific goals were:
  1. For North Central Region project team and agricultural professionals to understand how manure nutrient management information is gathered and shared and the barriers to sharing (NCRWN Goal to increase multi-state connectivity and learning among university professionals and partners);
  2. To provide agricultural professionals who develop outreach and education programs the information they need to understand inter-disciplinary terminology around manure nutrient management (NCWRN Goal to build capacity and expand successful Extension programming); and
  3. Develop a model for effective pathways of information dissemination of manure nutrient management from research to implementation (NCWRN Goal to build capacity and expand successful Extension programming).  
The major activity associated with this project was a national survey taken by 964 manure nutrient management professionals addressing the relevance of information sources (inputs), information products (outputs) and collaborators (links). The survey data provided the following insights: (1) the manure nutrient management field is increasingly female; (2) most organizations focus their efforts on one or two tasks related to manure nutrient management; however, University and Extension professionals tended to select more tasks per person than other organizations; (3) the most relevant sources of information among all survey respondents were Farm or Field Setting, Science-based Sites and Consultation, and the least relevant were Research Paper or Technical Document, Classroom Setting and Social Media. Learn more.

Erin Cortus
Assistant Professor / SDSU Extension Environmental Quality Engineer
Agricultural Engineering (SAE)
Box: 2120
Brookings, SD 57007
(605) 688.5144


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. 

North Dakota Soil Health Initiative

In 2012, the North Dakota legislature recognized the need to develop a team of extension and research professionals to specifically focus on soil health related issues. This was in direct response to a grass roots effort, where producers and agencies voiced concerns over increase salt-affected acres reducing agricultural productivity.

The process started in November of 2009 with testimony from several private and government agencies to the North Dakota State Board of Agricultural Research and Education (SBARE) about the desperate need for education and research on these issues. In March 2010, the NDSU budget request to the Governor's office included a proposal for six new soil health positions. When the North Dakota Legislature completed their budget work in April, 2011, three research and three extension positions were included. By July, 2012 six soil health team members were hired and started working on measures leading to improved soil health. The NDSU soil health team is geographically spread throughout the State in order to address the needs of the maximum number of stakeholders.

The soil health team has been working on critical soil health issues that have been identified with the help of an advisory group, composed of representatives from over 30 commercial, private and government organizations and farmers. Issues identified include increasing awareness and providing management options to reduce the effects of salt and sodium affected soils on production, lower shallow groundwater levels to create favorable growth environment, reduce tillage passes to minimize soil erosion, incorporate cover crops and diversify rotations to improve trafficability and soil health in general. Research across the state is currently underway on these areas of concern. Extension approaches being used include, but are not limited to, producer and train-the-trainer workshops, café and shop talks, field demonstrations, field days and tours, field demonstrations, and on-farm visits.

The Current NDSU Soil Health Team 

Dr. Abbey Wick | Extension Soil Health Assistant Professor NDSU Soil Science Department, Fargo 
Dr. Wick received her PhD in 2007 from University of Wyoming and was research faculty at Virginia Tech until 2012. She has experience in working with landowners and industry on issues ranging from soil nutrient cycling and physical limitations of soils on crop production to best management practices for reclaiming mined lands. Email:

Dr. Caley Gasch | Research Soil Health Assistant Professor 
NDSU Soil Science Department, Fargo 
Dr. Gasch received her PhD in 2013 from University of Wyoming and was a post-doctoral research associate at Washington State University until June 2016. She has worked extensively with both reclamation and agriculture to evaluate soil health parameters. She will start her position at NDSU on July 29, 2016. Email: 

Chris Augustin, M.S. | Area Extension Soil Health North Central Extension Research Center, Minot 
Mr. Augustin received both his MS (2009) and BS (2005) from NDSU. He worked for NDSU at the Carrington REC prior to his current position at the North Central REC. He has extension experience on various aspects of nutrient management and soil health. Email:

Jasper Teboh, Ph.D. | Soil Scientist Carrington Research Extension Center 
Dr. Teboh graduated from NDSU in 2007 with a PhD in Soil Science and worked as a Research Associate in the School of Plant, Environmental and Soil Sciences at Louisiana State University until 2012. He specializes in the areas of soil fertility and nutrient management. Email: 

Ben Geaumont, Ph.D. | Wildlife and Range Science Research Assistant Professor Hettinger Research Extension Center 
Dr. Geaumont received his PhD in 2009 from NDSU and worked as a post-doctoratal research fellow at the Hettinger REC from 2009 to 2011. His research focuses on the interactions between wildlife and agriculture and the thresholds between the two. Email: 

Soil Health Areas of Focus in ND 
Salt-Affected Soils 

Soil salinity and sodicity are primary issues facing North Dakota producers - over 90% of producers have some portion of their land that is salt affected. In some cases, like the Red River Valley, anywhere from 15 to 35 percent of total farmed acreage may have reduced productivity as a result of soluble salts. To address these issues, NDSU Soil Health has research and demonstration projects across the state - including the Soil Health and Agriculture Research Extension (SHARE) Farm located in Mooreton, ND and a large research/demonstration subsurface tile drainage project at the Langdon Research Extension Center. Numerous Extension education activities center around saline and sodic soil management - including a Signature Program as part of NDSU Extension program 

Conservation Tillage
There are growing concerns about soil erosion and a desire to build soil health by North Dakota producers. Conservation tillage is a good fit for many, whether they choose strip till, vertical till, no till or just backing off a tillage pass or two. To address this soil health management approach - NDSU Extension has joined with the University of Minnesota Extension to host the Conservation Tillage Conference ( and developing large-scale conservation tillage plots in the Red River Valley of ND and MN. 

Cover Crops 

Cover crops, both full season and integrating them in rotation, are of growing interest to producers. There is a benefit to use cover crops on "prevent plant" fields (due to excess spring rains) in preparation for farming the following year. There is also a realized benefit to including cover crops in rotation (such as cereal rye aerially seeded into corn or drilled following soybean) to better cover soils and reduce wind erosion in the winter. Additionally, producers are using cover crops in rotation following wheat to better diversity rotations and to remediate saline areas and manage resistant weeds. Many livestock producers have also benefited from cover crops by including them in their grazing plans. 

More Information on the NDSU Soil Health Program 


An extensive webpage has been developed to provide information in the form of circulars, web links and videos. Over 25 videos are posted on the webpage - ranging in content from summaries of research projects and extension activities to farmer use of cover crops to basic information on soil health topics. 

Twitter feed: @NDSUsoilhealth

Naeem Kalwar, North Dakota State University, Extension Area Specialist/Soil Health
Since March 2012, Naeem Kalwar have been working as an Extension Area Soil Health Specialist for North Dakota State University out of Langdon Research Extension Center. He completed his Masters in Land Resource Science, School of Environmental Sciences, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada in 2011. 

Naeem and other NDSU Soil Health team members have been increasing awareness to prevent and mitigate soil salinity and sodicity, lower groundwater levels and adopt practices that minimize soil erosion through a variety of extension programs. These programs have been delivered throughout North Dakota by working closely with the county extension agents, soil conservation districts, natural resources conservation service, farm service agency and agriculture research service of USDA. In 2014, a unique "Groundwater Management Project" worth $85000 was successfully installed at the Langdon REC with the support of private donors. With this project in place, NDSU Soil Health team aims to conduct research on finding economical solutions to remediate soil salinity and sodicity, lower groundwater levels and to screen water-use efficient and salt-tolerant crops.

Cell Phone: 701-370-0209


G-WOW "Hear the Water's Voice" 
July 18-21, 2016
Mark your calendar to attend the  "Hear the Water's Voice"  Climate Change Institute being held 
July 18-21 2016 , focusing on water and climate change. This professional development institute is designed for teachers and community educators interested in teaching students about climate change using culturally relevant resources. Training will be based at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center and surrounding Lake Superior areas. More info.  

SWCS-71st Annual Conference: Managing Great River Landscapes
July 24-27, 2016 Louisville, KY
The 71 st  SWCS International Annual Conference will provide a forum for exploring and promoting science-based knowledge about management practices that protect land and river ecologies and make them productive and more resilient. The conference will offer unique opportunities to showcase conservation efforts in both the uplands and bottomlands of great rivers and their tributaries, including nutrient management, erosion and sediment control, nonpoint source pollution and watershed policy, flood and drought management, and other issues influencing the health and functionality of our soil and water.   More info.

StormCom: The Surface Water Quality Conference and Expo
August 22-25, 2016 Indianapolis, IN
StormCon is a tremendous opportunity for attendees to grow their stormwater initiative in a more focused, informed way, with analysis and feedback from your peers to help direct your efforts and pinpoint areas everyone can improve upon. More info .

Water Environment Federation - Water Quality Event
September 24-28, 2016 New Orleans, LA
WEFTEC®, the  Water Environment Federation's  Annual Technical Exhibition and Conference, is the biggest meeting of its kind in North America and offers thousands of water quality professionals from around the world the best water quality education and training available today. Also recognized as the world's largest annual water quality exhibition, WEFTEC's massive show floor provides unparalleled access to the field's most cutting-edge technologies and services. More info. 

Minnesota Water Conference
October 18-19, 2016
The Minnesota Water Resources Conference presents innovative, practical, and applied water resource engineering solutions, management techniques, and current research about Minnesota's water resources.  More info.

Funding Opportunities
USDA Agriculture and Food Research Initiative - Water for Agriculture Challenge Area
Deadline: August 4, 2016
This AFRI Challenge Area addresses critical water resources issues such as drought, excess soil moisture, flooding, quality and others in an agricultural context. Funding will be used to develop management practices, technologies, and tools for farmers, ranchers, forest owners and managers, public decision makers, public and private managers, and citizens to improve water resource quantity and quality. The long-term goal of the AFRI Water for Agriculture Challenge Area is to tackle critical water issues by developing both regional systems for the sustainable use and reuse, flow and management of water, and at the watershed and farm scales, water issues focused on production and environmental sustainability efforts. Project types supported within this Challenge area are multi-function Integrated Research, Education, and/or Extension Projects and Food and Agricultural Enhancement (FASE) Grants. More info.

In Case You Missed it...
The Current Webinar 19:  Extension Programs for Youth Environmental and STEM Education
  • Brandon Schroeder, Sea Grant Extension Educator, Michigan State University Extension: Water Stewardship through Place-Based Education
  • Justin Houghman, Director, Upham Woods Outdoor Learning Center, University of Wisconsin-Extension: STEM and Water Education
  • Kelly Feehan, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Extension Educator in Horticulture, Stormwater Sleuth and Running Rain Youth Education Resources
Watch here

The 6th installment of the Communicating Climate Change Webinar:

Climate Change and Water for Agriculture Education for Extension Professionals

As a result of the webinar series, Extension professionals and partners will be more aware of existing water resources and how they relate to weather and climate in North Central region. Additionally, the participants will be empowered to use the new relationships and knowledge gained to improve programming in the water resource program area, particularly impacting the ability of the network to "generate measurable economic, environmental, and social impacts in the short and long-term, with a focus on watershed planning and climate change and adaptation." View here. 

Press release:  Great Lakes Governors Approve and Set Conditions for Limited Diversion of Lake Michigan Water to Waukesha, Wisconsin
The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Council (Compact Council) on Tuesday approved the Great Lakes water diversion application forwarded by the State of Wisconsin and submitted by the City of Waukesha, Wisconsin, subject to conditions required by the Compact Council. View here.

Useful to Usable and The Sustainable Corn CAP: Climate Change and Agriculture Extension
The research and the educators were a part of two USDA-NIFA climate projects,   which were funded to increase Corn Belt agriculture's capacity to adapt to and to assist in mitigating the impacts of climate change. These lessons give us a deeper understanding  of the beliefs and knowledge of agricultural stakeholders at the intersection of climate and agriculture. They provide insights into farmers' readiness to learn about climate science and to engage in adaptive and mitigative agricultural management. View here.

EPA 2016 Workplan: Programmatic Response to Climate Change and Water
This Workplan describes the actions that the National Water Program is planning to take in 2016 to implement the National Water Program 2012 Strategy: Response to Climate Change . View here.

Fields to Streams: Managing Water in Rural Landscapes Publication
"Fields to Streams: Managing Water in Rural Landscapes" is a new on-line and print publication from the University of Minnesota. It is designed to help conservation staff work with landowners to understand the science and practice of managing water in rural landscapes. The 100 page booklet uses extensive graphics and concise explanations about the water cycle and land management practices that can be used to reduce the rate of erosion and sediment loss from rural streams.

The online publication is available for free download from University of Minnesota Extension at   and the print version is available from the University of Minnesota Bookstore website  under Books, UM Extension Publications.

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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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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