NEW ULM - Minnesota River basin watershed professionals discussed nitrogen and nutrients with state officials at a networking event hosted by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) Tuesday at the Pizza Ranch.
Excess nutrients make up 18 percent of Minnesota water impairments, and the number is expected to climb in the next decade, according to the MPCA.
"Nutrients are second only to mercury as a widespread, costly, challenging, environmental problem...Minnesota exports water. Sometimes it takes a hurricane to recharge it," said Wayne Anderson of the MPCA. "Mississippi River phosphorus loading is down 27 percent since 2000."
One person at the meeting questioned Anderson about regulatory agencies "going after phosphorus to the point it throws nature was out of balance."
"We know there are no farmers that don't want to be as efficient as possible," Anderson said.
Anderson said more research is needed on subjects like cover crops that serve beneficial purposes and creating perennial markets for plants growing on marginal, vulnerable land.
"Research is big. We don't have all the tools yet. We need more on-farm trials and industry-led Best Management Practices (BMPs)," Anderson said. "...This is only the beginning."
He urged anyone wishing to send written comments by Dec. 18, 2013; receive updates and more information by visiting www.pca.state.mn.us
Dave Wall of the MPCA said 15 Minnesota streams, mostly in southeast Minnesota, exceed cold drinking water standards of more than 10 mg/liter.
"Nitrogen levels vary in different parts of the state," Wall said. "Most nitrogen filters down into the soil. Not much of it runs off. We need long-term testing and have to consider the climate before drawing conclusions."
The event was held to enhance efforts to restore and protect water quality with greater communication on technical and operational topics among watershed organizational staff.
Other presentations were made on the Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program with an analysis demonstration by Brad Redlin of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA); the Minnesota River Integrated Watershed Study by Kate Frantz of the Environmental Quality Board; and a Nitrogen Fertilizer Management Plan by Annie Felix-Gerth of the MDA.
(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org).