The overall goal of this project is to engage farmers that will implement cover crops for water quality improvement as well as their own farm’s sustainability.
The HLWD continually looks for avenues to provide opportunities that could lead to landowners and operators incorporating new techniques in their farming operations. Surveys conducted by the HLWD and the University of Minnesota have found environmental issues and new environmental technologies to be of high value to watershed residents. In addition, landowners rarely can independently afford to implement new conservation practices. This problem permeates the entire watershed and affects any HLWD resident who is interested in improving and protecting the environment and wildlife habitat through responsible farming practices.
Third crops are any crops other than corn and soybeans that are not row crops. Small grains, hay, pasture, and cover crops are considered third crops. The main goal of implementing third crops is to reduce nonpoint source pollution loading from agricultural lands that are in annual tillage.
The West Fork Des Moines River and Heron Lake Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Report found North and South Heron Lake to be impaired for phosphorus. The Heron Lake Third Crop Phosphorus Reduction Effort has the potential to decrease phosphorus levels by using cover crops to reduce sediment, nutrients, and pesticide movement to surface water. The root systems of the cover crops would break up compaction to allow for better water infiltration and be used to draw nitrogen from deep below the surface back to the root zone for next year’s crop. These are the ways to naturally improve the overall yield of the following year’s crop while reducing nitrogen application costs.
• Funded through an EPA 319 Grant administered by MPCA
• Timeframe: July 1, 2014 to September 30, 2017
• Grant funds: $32,898.80
• Match: $39,983.09
• Total project cost: $72,881.89