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The Tree UW Discovery Farms Special Edition Newsletter: Featuring topics from our upcoming conference

Crop Management in the 21st Century December 12, 2012 • Wisconsin Dells, WI


ave you ever thought of soil and water conservation as a risk management tool? For much of the state of Wisconsin, the 2012 crop season started with intense storms that delivered large amounts of water in a short time period and ended with a severe drought which devastated yields across the state. The UW – Discovery Farms Program is hosting a one-day conference to explore the economics of soil and water conservation, and whether you can use certain conservation practices to protect yourself from losses in situations like those of the 2012 crop season. Instead of our quarterly newsletter, we’ve compiled summaries of the presentations you will hear during the one-day conference. We hope these summaries get you thinking about crop management in today’s world, which can change in an instant. Mark your calendar and pass the word along to any friends or neighbors who may be interested!

Inside this issue... 1 Crop Management in the 21st Century 2 What practices are reducing environmental and economic risks on Wisconsin farms? 3 Climate change in Wisconsin and impacts on agriculture 4 Is conservation tillage the right choice for your bottomline? 5 You’d have to be crazy to farm those slopes! 6 Frequency, magnitude and timing of large storm events on sediment and nutrient loss 7 Handling manure now, and into the future

Mark your calendar for December 12th and come to the Wilderness, Glacier Canyon Conference Center in Wisconsin Dells. Register by December 5 to get the early bird registration fee of $40. The registration fee includes lunch and materials, and can be done on-line at Plan to arrive at 9:30 am; presentations and discussion begin at 10:00 am; and we will finish by 4:00 pm. Continuing education credits will be 4.5 CEUs total with 1.0 in Nutrient Management and 3.5 in Soil & Water Management. You will hear from several speakers and learn: What practices are reducing environmental and economic risks on Wisconsin farms? How much water do I need for a crop this year? Is climate change in Wisconsin impacting agriculture? Is conservation tillage the right choice for your bottom line? How do large storm events impact annual sediment and nutrient loss? What risks come along with farming steep slopes? And, what are the economics, challenges, and new opportunities in manure handling? We hope to see you there! Register at or call 715983-5668 for more information. We would like to extend our appreciation to the following co-sponsors. Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin

What practices are reducing environmental and economic risks on Wisconsin farms? Dennis Frame, Director UW-Discovery Farms


he UW - Discovery Farms Program was created twelve years ago to develop on-farm and related research to determine the economic and environmental effects of Best Management Practices on a diverse group of Wisconsin farms. Over the past twelve years we have worked on many farms evaluating a variety of farming systems and identifying the positive and negative impacts that production agriculture can have on the environment. This talk will provide an overview of these farming systems, discuss what we learned in terms of nutrient and sediment loss under different physiographic settings and explain under what conditions these farming systems pose an unacceptable risk to water quality. The focus of this talk is to explain when and where we saw nutrient and sediment losses that could have been avoided with improvements in management. We will also discuss what we have learned about unavoidable losses and try and explain the difference between unacceptable risk and acceptable risk.

rotational grazing. The settings for these farming systems ranged from very steep (the driftless region with slopes up to 32%) to gently rolling (<3%) with a variety of unique challenges including manure management, tile drainage systems and close distance to surface water. On each of the operations that were studied, the farm operators have selected a farming system (tillage, planting, pest control, manure management, harvest, crop rotation, etc) that works for them. For the first two years of the study we asked the producers not make changes to their farming systems so that we could evaluate nutrient and sediment loss from their current practices. It quickly became apparent that on real farms, nothing stays the same. All of our cooperators made adjustments in management based not only on the data we were collecting, but also based on economics, changes in demand and changes on the operation (equipment, land base, labor, increase in cattle numbers). It is also apparent that even with the best farming system, implemented almost perfectly; mother nature can throw some unanticipated events which have a tremendous impact on nutrient and sediment losses.

Discovery Farms has studied a variety of farming systems including no-till, minimal tillage, tillage and


Climate change in Wisconsin and impacts on agriculture By Chris Kucharik, University of Wisconsin - Madison Agronomy


uring the 1950-2006 period across Wisconsin, significant changes in climate have occurred, but the spatial patterns and magnitude of these changes vary significantly from location to location. In general, the most widely applicable statement that can be made about climate change in Wisconsin is that the state’s residents are experiencing a trend towards wetter conditions with less extreme cold, but the number of extremely hot days during summer does not appear to have increased. The four seasons have experienced widely varying degrees of climate change, with the most pronounced warming having occurred in winter and spring, and nighttime low temperatures are increasing at a rate that is faster than daytime highs. The difference in the rate of warming between daytime and nighttime temperatures has caused the diurnal temperature range to compress by 0.35ºC in springtime to as much as 1.2ºC in summertime. The growing season has become longer by about 1 to 3 weeks across the interior portion of the central and northern parts of the state.

were supported by cooler and wetter conditions during the summer, whereby increases in precipitation have counteracted negative impacts of recent warming on crop yield trends. Results suggest that for each additional degree (ºC) of future warming, corn and soybean yields could potentially decrease by 13% and 16%, respectively, whereas modest increases in precipitation (i.e. 50 mm) during the summer could help boost yields by between 5-10%, counteracting the negative effects of increased temperature. While northern U.S. Corn Belt regions such as Wisconsin may benefit from climate and management changes that lengthen the cropgrowing period in spring and autumn, they are not immune to decreased productivity due to warming during meteorological summer. It appears that any degree of future warming during the core of the growing season would have a negative impact on productivity in Wisconsin. New experimental data from Illinois suggests that C4 photosynthesis (corn) is already saturated at the current levels of atmospheric CO2, and thereby additional increases in CO2 will not be effective at boosting productivity in the future, but could help to increase water use efficiency. In the case of soybeans (C3 photosynthesis), it appears that increases in yield could still occur as CO2 increases in the atmosphere. It is suggested that across Wisconsin, soybean yields may be increased by approximately 13-15% as CO2 levels climb towards 550 ppm by 2050.

Corn and soybean yield trends across Wisconsin have been favored by cooling and increased precipitation during the summer growing season. Trends in precipitation and temperature during the growing season from 1976-2006 explained 40% and 35% of county corn and soybean yield trends, respectively. Using USDA county level yield information combined with climate data, both corn and soybean yield trends


Is conservation tillage the right choice for your bottomline? Jayson K. Harper, Professor of Agricultural Economics, Penn State University


here are many potential economic advantages for of conventional tillage are the additional trips across the field, higher labor, fuel, and machinery costs, negative reducing the number of tillage operations for crop enterprises. These include: 1) lower fuel costs due to fewer impact on timeliness, and long-term potential for soil compaction. trips over the field, 2) reducing the amount of tillage equipment needed, which results in lower machinery Minimum tillage generally refers to a set of tillage investment, 3) lower labor requirements, which reduces operations in hired labor costs or which moldboard Table 1. Estimated Corn Cost of Production for Conventional frees up operator plowing is Tillage, Minimum Tillage, and No-Till, Pennsylvania, 2012. time for other replaced by Conventional Reduced farm operations, chisel plowing Tillage Tillage No-Till 4) reducing soil or additional ($/A) ($/A) ($/A) loss to water and disking. The wind erosion, and numbers of trips Variable costs affected by tillage system across the field 5) conserving soil Fuel $22.23 $17.40 $11.12 are reduced, moisture. Labor $22.38 $17.38 $11.52 which reduces Two important Repairs and maintenance $16.02 $11.68 $9.68 the potential for economic soil compaction Total Variable Costs $481.91 $467.08 $455.57 questions are and the cost of Fixed costs affected by tillage system raised when producing the comparing tillage crop. Minimum Tractors $14.59 $11.49 $7.12 systems. First, tillage can be Equipment $22.78 $16.37 $13.41 an effective way does it really pay Total Cost of Production $619.28 $594.94 $576.10 to reduce labor to use a tillage requirements and system other costs for seedbed preparation if the numbers of secondary than the one currently in use? Second, if it is economical tillage operations are kept to a minimum. to switch, which system would be the best? Changing tillage systems will have an impact on both the variable No-till is the practice of planting in one pass over the and fixed costs of production. Variable costs are those field without any seedbed preparation. Pulling a no-till that vary with the level of production and are dependent planter through crop residue requires more draft than on the system of production. Examples of variable costs a standard planter on a conventional or minimum till which would change depending on tillage system are seedbed, but this is compensated by the elimination of all fuel, labor, and pest control costs. Fixed costs are those field preparation activities. Some special considerations which are incurred because of the ownership of an asset. in no-till are fertility, pest management, soil moisture/ They cost the farmer regardless of the level of production. physical conditions, and soil temperatures. Because Examples include depreciation, interest, taxes, insurance, soils under no-till are cooler than under conventional shelter, and land. In the case of tillage systems, the tillage, use of starter fertilizer is especially advantageous major differences in fixed cost are for equipment. There because this is the only opportunity to incorporate are major differences in the types of tillage equipment and concentrate phosphorus fertilizer near the planted and size of tractors needed for different tillage systems. seed. Cooler soil temperatures may also mean slow or Therefore, machinery costs are a major consideration in poor germination than in plowed ground. Soil moisture comparing tillage systems (Table 1). conditions are critical to no-till planting because planting when the soil is too wet or too dry may result in poor Conventional tillage requires more fuel and labor and stands and potential yield loss. Diseases may also be more larger tractors than minimum tillage or no-till systems. of a problem in no-till, especially in continuous corn, After moldboard plowing, secondary tillage operations are because crop residue provides an excellent environment used to prepare the ground for planting. Major drawbacks for disease pathogens to overwinter.


Youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d have to be crazy to farm those slopes! Joe Bragger, Dairy and Poultry Farmer, Buffalo County, WI


uffalo County is known for being one of the best trophy deer hunting locations in the United States. However, it also contains some very good farmland with fertile soils that tend to have some challenges with elevation change. Discovery Farms selected a farm in this region of Wisconsin because of the unique setting of steep fields with lots of streams and waterways located throughout the landscape. This region of the state poses some of the greatest challenges for nutrient management planners, and it is often thought that if we could identify a farming system in this part of the state (or better yet, a series of farming systems) that have acceptable levels of nutrient and sediment loss, then farming systems throughout the state can achieve acceptable levels of loss. The Bragger Farm was instrumented with two monitoring stations in two different headwater streams located on the dairy. The north basin consists of 430 acres with 150 acres cropland, 250 acres woodland, and 30 acres pasture. The south basin consists of 215 acres with 39 acres cropland and pasture, 107 acres woodland, and 69 acres in CRP/CREP. Slopes in the cropped fields range from 6 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; 33%, while the woodland and pasture are significantly steeper. Perennial streams emerge from the base of the limestone slopes and run through both basins. The farm has adopted a strip tillage system for corn and no-till for both soybeans and alfalfa. Six years of data show annual sediment losses of 280 pounds per acre in the north basin and 72 pounds in the south basin, which has little agriculture. Storms account for 95% of all sediment losses, with about 55% of the sediment delivered in the spring/summer/fall and the remaining 45% occurring in the winter. This talk will focus on the data collected from this farm and compare these actual losses to current state goals for stream water quality, as well as how the models predicted phosphorus and sediment loss. Joe will explain his farming system, how and why he has implemented several best management practices, and what he sees as the future of his operation. The key finding at the Bragger farm was that nutrient and sediment loadings are below most anticipated thresholds for water quality protection; this farm is an economically and environmentally viable operation.


Frequency, magnitude and timing of large storm events on sediment and nutrient loss Eric Cooley, University of Wisconsin - Discovery Farms


umerous climatic studies have shown that weather patterns are changing in Wisconsin and other Midwestern States. Precipitation events are becoming more extreme in both volume and intensity and are occurring with larger variation on a state and regional basis. The timing and magnitude of these more extreme events plays a vital role in the potential for sediment and nutrient loss from agricultural land.

locations, 59 site-years of data were evaluated that comprised a variety of farming systems and practices in different regions of the state. The magnitude of each nonfrozen ground precipitation event was calculated and assessed to determine if an edge-of-field runoff event occurred. Of the 2,400 total non-frozen rain events that occurred on the five farms, only 246 (or 10%) of the rain events resulted in edge-of-field runoff. Individual farm values ranged between 8% and 14%. During the 7 year evaluation period, one 100 year event, three 25 year events and seven 10year events were observed.

To assess the magnitude of a precipitation event, DepthDuration-Frequency (DDF) are commonly used to evaluate rainfall depths (inches of rain) for different durations (e.g., 30 min, 1 h, 24 h). These values are then compared to statistical frequency of similar sized events to rank the storm. A common example is the 25-year/24hour event that is used as a design criteria in technical standards for sizing best management practices to be effective to a given storm size. For example, in northeast Wisconsin, 5.29 inches of precipitation received in a 24 hour period should statisti足cally occur only once every 25 years (a 25 year/24 hour event).

Timing of the large events is an important factor for resulting runoff, sediment, and nutrient loss. Soil moisture, crop canopy, slope, surface residue, soil type, tillage, and a variety of other factors determine the runoff potential of the soil from precipitation events. Of the largest storm observed (100-year event with 4.6 inches in just over 3 hours), only a small amount of runoff resulted because the event occurred during the late summer after an extended dry period. Small to medium magnitude precipitation events during the spring of the year, when soils were high in moisture content, often resulted in a large volume of runoff. While the largest precipitation events typically did not result in the largest runoff events, it was also observed that the largest runoff events often did not correspond with the largest sediment or nutrient loss. Taking into account both frozen and non-frozen ground runoff events, a single runoff event was observed to account for the majority of sediment or nutrient loss for the year. Many of the high sediment loss events occurred during the spring of the year, once the ground was thawed; whereas high phosphorus and nitrogen loss events occurred on both frozen ground and spring runoff events.

Edgeof-field runoff data was collected on five Discovery Farms throughout Wisconsin and compared to the local DDF values for each precipitation event that occurred during the non-frozen ground period. On the five Discovery Farms


Handling manure now, and into the future Kevan Klingberg, University of Wisconsin - Discovery Farms


hat are the economics, challenges and new opportunities in livestock manure handling? Our Crop Management in the 21st Century conference will end with a panel discussion with two dairy producers and a custom manure application business owner.

and participate in the Green Tier program. Brent Cook is co-owner of Cook’s Countryside Trucking, a family owned custom manure application business. Their drivers are certified through the Professional Nutrient Applicators Association of Wisconsin. Cooks have a full line of liquid and solid manure handling and application equipment; and serve customers in Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota.

Panel members include: 1) Ben Peterson of Four Cubs Farm in Grantsburg, WI; 2) Kenn Buelow of Holsum Dairies in Hilbert, WI; and 3) Brent Cook of Cook’s Country­side Trucking in North Freedom, WI.

Each panel member will describe their unique manure handling system and share insight as to how they see their system changing in the next 5 years. Discussion topics will include: methods for emptying storage, transporting manure and applying it to cropland; cost per gallon stored and spread; manure handling labor and machinery needs; attributing the cost and value of manure back to the farm; public road weight limits; and identification of the greatest opportunities and new technologies for the industry into the future.

Ben Peterson is co-owner of Four Cubs Farm, a multigenera­ tional dairy. The family milks 500 + cows and operates 1,000 acres of cropland. They have cropland rental agreements with 20 different landowners. The farm has manure storage; uses liquid manure as a nutrient source for crop production; and plans to grow in the future. Kenn Buelow is a dairy manager and part‐owner of Holsum Dairies. He provides operational development & management for two 4,000 cow dairy operations. Kenn has assisted with site selection, design and construction of the current facility, as well as ongoing improvements. Both dairies have an environmental management system

This discussion will be of interest to livestock and crop producers, custom manure applicators, and all agricultural professionals serving Wisconsin farmers. One CEU in nutrient management will be available through this session.



University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension Trempealeau County Discovery Farms PO Box 429, 40195 Winsand Drive Pigeon Falls, WI 54760-0429

Director Dennis Frame 715-983-2257 Outreach Specialists Kevan Klingberg 715-983-2240 Eric Cooley 608-235-5259 Amber Radatz 608-317-0001 Program Assistant Judy Goplin 715-983-5668 Data/Information Systems Susan Frame 715-983-5668 Research Specialist Aaron Wunderlin 920-839-5431 This newsletter can be found on the web at: Regarding the mailing list, call/e-mail 715-983-5668 or UW Discovery Farms is a producer-led research and outreach program based out of the University of WisconsinExtension. The program is unique in that it conducts research on working farms located throughout Wisconsin, seeking to identify the impacts of production agriculture on water quality. The program is managed by faculty from the University of Wisconsin, along with oversight from a steering committee of producers, citizens and agency personnel representing a wide variety of non-profit and government organizations. Funding has been provided by the State of Wisconsin, UW-Extension, as well as a number of annual grants from producer groups and our federal partners. An EEO/Affirmative Action employer, University of Wisconsin-Extension provides equal opportunities in employment and programming, including Title IX and ADA requirements. Request for reasonable accommodation for disabilities or limitations should be made prior to the date of the program or activity for which it is needed. Publications are available in alternative formats upon request. Please make such requests as early as possible by contacting the Discovery Farms office at 715-983-5668 so proper arrangements can be made.

Special Edition Newsletter: Crop Management in the 21st Century Conference  
Special Edition Newsletter: Crop Management in the 21st Century Conference  

In this special edition of the UW Discovery Farms newsletter, we feature articles on each of the topics to be presented at our upcoming conf...