Warren Formo

Plenty to Learn at First Day of Prairie Grains Conference

Farmers from across northern Minnesota gathered at the Prairie Grains Conference in Grand Forks Wednesday, Dec. 10, to discuss on-farm research, Red River Valley Watershed water quality, soybean updates and hear from agriculture advocate Trent Loos.

The day began with an on-farm research discussion at the Alerus Center with an on-farm research discussion. Among wheat and barley related research projects, a few farmers discussed research happening on their farms that were in relation to soybean production.

One focus of research was on the use of image radishes for cover cropping to control soybean cyst nematode. The study is just beginning this year, but cost figures are about $3.90 per pound of seed with about 10 pounds planted on each acre. The goal is to determine if a toxin in the radishes is such that it controls cyst nematode growth.

A large group of farmers turned out for the Red River Valley Water Quality discussion after lunch. Jim Ziegler, Section Manager at Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, told farmers that their goal for the Red River watershed is to reduce phosphorus runoff by 50 percent over a set period of time. He also discussed the value of being involved in water quality discussions.

“Stay involved in the process we have and changes we’re looking at potentially making to water quality expectations so you can voice concerns and preferences throughout the process,” Ziegler said.

Ziegler was followed by Manitoba Agriculture Nutrient Management Specialist Mitchell Timmerman, who elaborated on the effects of phosphorus runoff in the Red River Watershed in both the U.S. and Canada on Lake Winnipeg. Timmerman also pointed out that Canada extension is really ramping up education to its farmers about rates, water effects and how to protect their options in the future by making the right decisions now.

Minnesota Agricultural Water Resource Center Executive Director Warren Formo wrapped up the session with a few quick points on what farmers are currently doing in Minnesota on their farms to protect their resources and answered farmer questions.

Counties with soybean grower associations in the northwestern part of the state then gathered to discuss regional updates, county promotion ideas and get an overview of this year’s variety trials.

The evening entertainment was left to Trent Loos, Nebraska farmer and rancher, who entertained the audience with agricultural facts and life stories. (See related story.)

The Prairie Grains Conference wraps up Thursday, Dec. 11, with a morning look at soybean production, an outlook on the weather and markets, transportation availability in northern plains, a seminar on managing risk and a trade show.