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

One early morning last week, my sister's blue Honda pulled into my driveway, just as the sun was turning the branches of the neighbor's oak tree golden. We live about 10 minutes apart, so we get together a few times a week for a run or bike ride, and to catch up on family news.

This morning she walked up the front stairs and as I opened the door to let her in she handed me an old publication - flaking, yellowed, and lightly dusted with mold and mildew.

"Look at the date," she said. I was afraid to unfold the thing or turn the pages for fear it would crumble in my hands. In truth it was not as fragile as I had first thought. So I put it down on my desk and opened it so I could see the front page. October 14, 1893.

Gently examining the time-stiffened pages further, I saw that it was a copy of the Orange Judd Farmer, published near the conclusion of the six-month Chicago World's Fair. The fair showcased a newly rebuilt city, 22 years after the Great Chicago Fire; exhibits from 46 nations; and the latest in architecture, art, transportation, urban planning, engineering, science and agriculture. Among the ads for Spencer's Full Circle Hay and Straw Press, the Staver Buckeye Feed Mill and Power, and the Page Woven Wire Fence Co., an article on the second page caught my attention: Saving Manures. The article starts:

It is not necessary for Experiment Stations to tell us that manures, kept continually exposed to rain and sun, must lose their essential elements, and that, too, very rapidly. We see very often streams of dark, black liquid issuing from fertilizer heaps, and perhaps running down some slope into pond or brook, where the crops are not liable to receive much benefit from them. Why are these leaks permitted and how remedied, are the questions. The first is hard to answer, but the second is no very difficult solution. Mix manure liberally with absorbents, and keep under cover.

It concludes with this sentence:

The matter of saving manure can not be looked into too closely. It is folly to depend on commercial fertilizers when much of our own manure goes to waste.

I was struck by the idea that this article could have been written today - nearly 125 years later. I must confess the realization gave me mixed feelings. My first reaction was one of comfort. Why? In part, because I had just attended a manure composting demonstration as part of the 2017 North American Manure Expo at Endres Berryridge Farm, LLC. Jeff Endres, one of three brothers that operate the dairy farm, is experimenting with manure composting for the heifer calf part of their operation. Jeff's composting operation uses the same basic practices recommended in 1893 - Mix manure liberally with absorbents, and
keep under cover. There was comfort in being reminded that some best practices never change.

During the tour, Endres shared three primary reasons for looking more closely at composting as an innovative manure management strategy: yield boosts (alfalfa), operational flexibility (spreading on growing crops), and keeping nutrients on the farm and out of the water (lower mobility and longer spreading windows to further minimize runoff risk).
Given all the benefits of managing manure through composting, my second reaction was a bit of frustration mixed with curiosity. How do the fundamentals become lost? When we respond to changing market conditions and new technologies, how do we keep the fundamentals intact?

Then I realized that as much as we know about managing manure, we probably know even more about fundamental best practices for communicating information. Humans have always passed important lessons down from generation to generation, through relationships and stories. Even in the age of automation, social media, and big data, we rely on relationships - person to person and smaller group communication with trusted sources - as we attempt to sort fact from fiction. And we know the value of stories for translating complex ideas and helping them stick in our individual memories and our networks. While we need science to help us analyze information, we need compelling stories to communicate that information effectively. While funding for manure management and other conservation practices is critical, we know that investing in a sufficient number of well-trained people to assist with conservation decision-making is a fundamental best practice.

A lot has changed since 1893 Chicago World's Fair; however, we cannot lose hard-fought lessons that are still valid today. We know that composting, saving, and properly distributing manure nutrients makes sense for agriculture. And while the Orange Judd Farmer said we didn't need the Experiment Stations to tell us that, we do need someone to keep speaking up. Perhaps the Experiment Stations, the Extension system founded nearly 20 years later, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, conservation NGOs, local conservation districts, and insightful farmer and ag industry organizations, all working together, can help us keep ideas that have anchored agriculture and rural communities for hundreds and probably thousands of years front and center.

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. 

Building Collaboration Between 1862 Land Grant Universities and Tribal Colleges in the North Central Region


This project builds on prior efforts to enhance collaboration between the Tribal Colleges and state land-grants across the North Central region. Previous projects include the Tribal Water Resources Summit, led by the College of the Menominee Nation with the Great Lakes Land Grant Institutions in 2010. The First Americans Land-Grant College Organization and Network (FALCON), recently surveyed its members, and found strong interest nationwide to work on water quality-related projects.
With 19 tribal colleges (1994 land grants) across the North Central Region, there are clearly opportunities for water-related collaboration. There are several factors, such as different missions, and the lack of similar organizational structures across the institutions, which may create barriers to cooperation. Tribal colleges are primarily teaching institutions, granting Associates and Bachelor's degrees. Extension programming is often focused on youth development, natural resources or agricultural land management.
This project helped organize and support an "Extension Water Summit" which is leading to improved communication and collaboration amongst 1994 land-grants (Tribal Colleges) and the 1862 land-grants (state universities). Prior to the water summit, communication between these groups was enhanced through the sharing of ideas via a listserv and conference calls organized around compelling topics. Learning about other regional projects will be a key part of this activity. The outcome of this project will be at least two proposals submitted to USDA-NIFA and other sources, to initiate new collaborations, and enhance current work. 
Project ideas that are already being discussed include:
1) Emergency preparedness for Tribal communities, including water supply security, flooding, drought, waste management, etc;
2) Watershed assessments, bioassessments, agriculture BMP's, streambank stabilization;
3) Water quality monitoring and addressing concerns with wild rice production.

Project Contact:
Charles Barden
Project Director, Kansas State University


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. 

Measuring Nonpoint Source Nutrient Reductions in the Mississippi River Basin
Dr. Reid Christianson joined the Illinois Drainage Research and Outreach Program (I-DROP) team at the University of Illinois in May 2017 as a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Crop Sciences. He has extensive water quality experience in both the Chesapeake Bay watershed and the Mississippi River Basin through his previous work by designing and modeling urban stormwater management systems as a water resources engineer with the Center for Watershed Protection (Ellicott City, Maryland) and his work on the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy science assessment team.

Through funding from the Walton Family Foundation, his work at the University of Illinois will initially focus on the development of a tracking framework which Mississippi River Basin states can use to report progress to the Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Task Force about their non-point source nutrient loss reductions.

The hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico, documented since 1985, has been linked to nutrients from states in the upper Mississippi River basin, and particularly to agricultural activities in those states. In response to this major national water quality concern, the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) Science Advisory Board has called for 45% reductions in riverine nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) loads in the Mississippi-Atchafalaya River basin. To accelerate progress towards nutrient loading reductions, twelve states within the basin were tasked with developing nutrient loss reduction strategies (Arkansas, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, and Wisconsin). Representatives from the land grant universities within these twelve states came together to form SERA-46, a multi-state committee administered by the Southern Association of Agricultural Experiment Station Directors (SAAESD), to promote and coordinate multistate research and extension activities related to Gulf of Mexico/Mississippi River Basin water quality issues.

As each of the twelve states begins to implement their state-based nutrient strategies to reduce the amount of N and P each state sends to the Mississippi River, it is vital to also track and report the implementation or adoption of conservation practices that reduce nutrient losses from agricultural areas. Agricultural conservation practice implementation is reported to the Mississippi River Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force (that is, the Hypoxia Task Force, HTF) by participating states; however, there is no consistent reporting framework for all twelve states to use. This results in a variety of reporting methods and conservation practice implementation data that are not consistent from state to state. In response, members of the SERA-46 multistate committee have recently been funded by the Walton Family Foundation to develop a framework for tracking and reporting the implementation of agricultural conservation practices that is intended to eventually be the single reporting framework used by all twelve states for the next several decades. There are a variety of factors that influence the adoption of agricultural conservation practices, and these factors vary spatially and temporally (i.e., across the twelve HTF states and between when the hypoxic zone was first documented and now).

Reid Christianson, University of Illinois

Reid D. Christianson, P.E., is a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Crop Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has been doing work on surface water quality and water movement in the environment since 2003.

Reid has degrees in Biological and Agricultural Engineering from Kansas State University (B.S. and M.S.) and Biosystems Engineering from Oklahoma State University (Ph.D.). He is registered professional civil engineer in Illinois, Iowa, and Maryland and has previously worked for the Center for Watershed Protection, Iowa State University, Massey University (New Zealand), Kansas State University, and Oklahoma State University. 

In his spare time, Reid enjoys spreadsheet development, light weight programming, and "tinkering" with electronics. Learn more about Dr. Christianson and his research at


Purdue Agronomy Field Day
September 7, 2017
Purdue University will be holding an Agronomy Field Day on September 7th that focuses on farming financial skills and how to effectively manage crops.  The field day will incorporate practical skills combined with Extension educators. Learn more.

Mid-Ohio Valley Grazing Conference
September 16, 2017
Learn from the region's "Who's Who" among forages and pasture management.  Ohio State University Extension, West Virginia University Extension, Washington County Farm Bureau, Washington Soil and Water Conservation District, and The Career Center, Adult Technical Training is offering our region the Mid-Ohio Valley Grazing Conference at Lazy H Farms in Fleming where individuals can interact with specialists who are at the top of their profession. Vendors and information booths will be on site for participants to visit. Learn more. 

Imagine a Day Without Water 
October 12, 2017
Imagine a Day Without Water achieved a new bar for national public will building for water. Nearly 500 hundred organizations , companies, and municipalities across the country engaged in Imagine A Day Without Water - and drove unprecedented water-focused media and social media coverage in national and local markets.  Join the national movement on October 12, 2017 to raise awareness around water issues across the globe.   Learn more. 

Food Land and Water Conference
October 16-17, 2017
The  Food, Land & Water Project conference is scheduled for October 16-17, 2017 at The Osthoff Resort in Elkhart Lake.  The conference will involve a wide range of invited stakeholders who will present strategic background information and results of the four stakeholder workgroups.   Attendees will have a chance to listen, discuss, build new connections and working relationships, and think about our shared resources in a more systematic and collaborative way. Learn more. 

Soil and Water Conservation Society National Conference on Cover Crops and Soil Health
December 7-8, 2017
Whether you are contemplating cover crops for the first time, or you have years of experience and want to interact with soil health and cover crops innovators, this program will provide you with valuable information, networking, and learning opportunities. 
The conference is intended for anyone interested in the practical use of cover crops and soil health improvement, including farmers; conservation agents; certified crop advisers (CCAs) and agribusiness staff; and university, nongovernmental organization (NGO), and agency representatives.
  Learn more.

Do you know of an upcoming water or conservation event in the Midwest? Add it to the NCRWN website here

Funding and Other Opportunities

Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Regional Host Institution
The purpose of the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program is to encourage research and outreach designed to increase knowledge concerning agricultural production systems that:
  1. maintain and enhance the quality and productivity of the soil;
  2. conserve soil, water, energy, natural resources, and fish and wildlife habitat;
  3. maintain and enhance the quality of surface and ground water;
  4. protect the health and safety of persons involved in the food and farm system;
  5. promote the well-being of animals; and
  6. increase employment opportunities in agriculture (7 U.S.C. 5801 and 5811).
Applications are due by September 28, 2017.  Learn more.

Evaluating Economic and Environmental Benefits of Water Reuse for Agriculture
Water Environment & Reuse Foundation is currently funding research to evaluate the economic and environmental benefits of water reuse for agriculture. The objective of this effort is to provide documentation and characterization of economic and environmental benefits and obstacles to utilizing nontraditional water sources for agricultural irrigation as determined by an economic analysis using cost benefit analysis or other economic analysis tools.

Applications are due by October 18, 2017. Learn more.

FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule: Opportunities and Impacts on Potential Water Reuse for Agricultural Irrigation
Water Environment & Reuse Foundation is currently funding research to investigate the effects of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule on utilizing recycled water for agricultural irrigation. The objective of the White Paper is to provide an explanation of the Produce Safety Rule, how it will relate to reuse in terms of testing and water quality requirements, and present potential reuse opportunities for states to consider.

Application are due by October 11, 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.


September 13, 2017 - The Current Webinar 31: Social Indicators in Watershed Outreach and Impact Assessment: Overview and Applications
Past Webinars: 

August 9, 2017 - The Current 30: Cover Crops for Healthy Soils, Water Quality and Water Availability 
  • Eileen Kladivko, Professor of Agronomy and Extension Professional at Purdue University: Cover Crops to Improve Water Quality
  • Dean Baas, Extension Educator in Sustainable Agriculture at Michigan State University: Cover Crops to Improve Water Quantity in Cropped Fields
  • Anna Morrow, Program Manager for the Midwest Cover Crops Council: Using the MCCC Cover Crop Selector Tool 


Lake Michigan kings are back - but why?
 After a couple of disappointing years of fishing for Chinook salmon along the Michigan shoreline of Lake Michigan, anglers are once again excited about the late-summer bonanza that these "king" salmon provide. While the final estimates of angler harvest and catch rates will not be available from  Michigan DNR  and other agencies until spring, the long lines of heavy coolers at fish cleaning stations and full boards of fish are a very good sign. Learn more.

Global Food Systems talk set for Sept. 11 at Kansas State University
Jason Clay, the senior vice president for markets and food at the World Wildlife Fund, will be the featured speaker for the Henry C. Gardiner Global Food Systems lecture Sept. 11 at Kansas State University.
Clay's talk, 'Feeding the World: Sustaining the Planet,' is scheduled for 7 p.m. at McCain Auditorium. Admission is free. Learn more. 

Youth Compete in Skill-a-thons at Iowa State Fair
Iowa State University Extension and Outreach held three skill-a-thons at the 2017 Iowa State Fair, with 210 youth from 58 Iowa counties participating. Skill-a-thons were held for goat, sheep and swine.  Each skill-a-thon team was comprised of three individuals and included five stations where youth worked together to solve problems and identify goat, swine or sheep production components. Participants identified feed samples, breeds and meat cuts while also answering questions about genetics, nutrients, quality assurance and physiology. Learn more.

New system could remove two water pollutants from ag fields
Algae blooms in the Gulf of Mexico use up the majority of the oxygen in the water, leading to massive "dead zones" that cannot support fish or other wildlife. The culprit? Nitrate, running off agricultural fields through tile drainage systems. But nitrate is only part of the problem. Algae in freshwater lakes and ponds flourishes when exposed to a different pollutant, phosphorus, and the tiniest amount is enough to trigger a bloom. Learn more. 

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. 

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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