No-Till Farming A Viable Piece To Cleaner Water & Better Farming

I just got back from a trip to Winona, MN, a lovely college town along the Mississippi River. Located in the southeastern part of MN, Winona itself – because it is a river town – does not look like a community influenced by agriculture. But it is.

Farms abound in the areas around it, and according to research conducted by North Carolina State University (NC State), the mighty Mississippi is prone to the runoff that these farms can create.

No-till farming in MN.

The effect upon the Gulf of Mexico is, to put it mildly, damaging.

But as always, better farming practices are out there. Along with the grass buffers that have been presented here in previous blogs, no-till farming is for some farmers (and environmentalists) another exciting option.

It is working for Winona area farmer Bill Dunlay, according to this 2012 (dated, yes, but still pertinent) report from the Mississippi River – Winona Watershed News.

Dunlay’s land is hilly, and susceptible to erosion. Commenting on the benefits of no-till, Dunlay gets to the point. “It saves a ton,” he says. Dunlay notes he saves on fuel, equipment costs, time and soil.

All while losing nothing in yields, he says.

It is widely known that no-till farming dramatically reduces soil erosion and, because of improved water retention, crops actually require much less watering per acre. This is a terrific benefit for areas that experience less-than-normal rainfall in a given year.

Dunlay says that no-till may not be for every farmer, but it is worth a serious look for many. He has converted all 250 of his acres to the no-till method, and the results speak for themselves.



Tricky Connection to Climate Change & Farm Runoff

Projections for massive algae blooms in Lake Erie are once again grim for 2016, and a part of the problem is something that cannot be controlled: climate change.

According to this article in Toledo Blade, research from the American Geophysical Union suggests that blooms in Lake Erie may double in intensity over the next 100 years, even if nutrient runoff from farms is reduced by 40%.

Algae Blooms in IA, 2011.

Given the troubling contribution climate change makes to algae blooms in Lake Erie, and across the planet, a question begs answering which secondary research here has not yet produced.

How much does climate change account for the creation of algae blooms?

Clearly, the relationship between nutrient runoff and climate change is profound. Runoff can be controlled. Climate change cannot. If there is a sweet spot that will secure fresh surface water across the planet, despite the changes, it must be found. Apparently, reductions in nutrient runoff by 40% will not be enough.

What, then, will be? Without a deep and longstanding commitment between farmers and entities (like Clean Water Warrior) that can help them implement best-practices, this question will unfortunately go unanswered.

Disturbing Connection Between Polluted Surface Water & Groundwater

As if the scores of outdated and at-risk private wells in WI, contaminated from excessive farm fertilizer that carries with it a host of harmful bacteria and overabundance of nutrients like nitrogen, the connection to between unhealthy groundwater and surface water is very real.

In short, the only two sources of freshwater on the planet are inextricably tied. clean_water_image

In a condensed review of Marios Sophocleousscholarly article describing the interaction between surface water (SW) and groundwater (GW), it is clear that how one is affected — so is the other.

According to the abstract, “Surface-water and groundwater ecosystems are viewed as linked components of a hydrologic continuum leading to related sustainability issues.”

For those inclined to read further, the empirical evidence is supported through numerous sources. For the rest of us, it is enough to know that cleaning up and protecting all freshwater must become priority #1.

ReFreshMKE leads way in clean water, urban shore renewal

Armed with the support of the community, ReFreshMKE is leading the way in making Milwaukee a world-class fresh water coastal city. The target? Milwaukee’s inner harbor, a once robust manufacturing zone that today is riddled with empty, aging buildings as well as some viable businesses.

Milwaukee Harbor
Milwaukee Harbor

By reintroducing wetlands, better overall land management, and other ecology-friendly solutions, a ten-year strategic plan will transform this area into an asset that will significantly boost neighboring communities and current inner harbor businesses.