The North Dakota Discovery Farms program welcomed researchers and farmers from North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Arkansas during its summer tour July 13-14.
Discovery Farms are working farms or ranches. The owners offered their operations as research sites to evaluate the effectiveness of various practices to minimize environmental effects while maintaining farm profitability.
To date, the program consists of three North Dakota sites: Johannes Farm and Feedlot, Underwood; Amann Family Ranch, Dazey; and Bartholomay Brothers Family Farms, Sheldon. Water quality topics, including edge-of-feedlot runoff and tile drainage, are the current focus of studies at those sites.
Tour participants viewed water quality monitoring equipment and learned about program developments from the owners and Ron Wiederholt, NDSU Extension Service nutrient management specialist and North Dakota Discovery Farms program coordinator.
"Visiting North Dakota Discovery Farms was a great opportunity to see how monitoring programs operate in different states," said Dennis Busch, research manager of the University of Wisconsin-Platteville Pioneer Farm. "It also was a great way to network with other professionals regarding their programs and to see firsthand the progress that North Dakota is making related to water monitoring."
Wiederholt found the tour equally beneficial. "I was pleased to get a lot of feedback from our audience," he said. "We had open discussions about site design, water collection, data analysis and management. Some of the researchers have been running similar programs for several years; their insight will be invaluable as our program moves forward."
The North Dakota Discovery Farms program officially began in 2007 and is in the data collection phase. Once data is analyzed and interpreted, producers will coordinate with resource managers to implement the most feasible management practices for their respective operations.
"Ultimately, the program will help decision makers strike a balance between profitable agricultural production and protection of natural resources," Wiederholt said.
The program is a cooperative effort involving NDSU, North Dakota Department of Health and the U.S. Geological Survey. For more information, contact Wiederholt at (701) 652-2951 or firstname.lastname@example.org.