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The Tree

T h e U W D i s c o ve r y Fa r m s N e w s l e t t e r

Winter 2011



W Discovery Farms cooperated on a proposal with researchers from UW–Madison and the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene to assess the potential effects of hormones released from livestock manure. The proposal was developed and funded by the Environmental Protection Agency. The project was conducted from July 1, 2007 through September 30, 2011. The results are summarized in a final report written by the team of: Jocelyn Hemming, Martin Shafer, Terence Barry and James Schauer under the EPA agreement number R833421. The goal was to determine the presence, persistence and biological effects of natural and synthetic hormones that may be released into the environment from farms that raise livestock and to evaluate the effects of different animal manure spreading practices on the fate and activity of these compounds. Specific objectives were to: 1. Identify and quantify the suite of estrogenic, continued on page 5


Assessing Effects of Hormones Released from Livestock Manure.................................................................................. 1 Changes to Protect Water Quality..................................... 1 Director’s Column................................................................ 2 Understanding Concentration and Yield......................... 3 New Technologies in Drainage Water Management May Open Opportunities in Wisconsin’s Tile Drained Landscapes ........................................................................... 7



fter a meeting where information on nutrient and sediment losses coming from a variety of agricultural systems was presented, a producer approached us to request a farm visit. This farmer was concerned that his farm had exactly the same circumstances as one of our past Discovery Farms and he wanted to reduce the potential for nutrient losses coming from his farm. We agreed to visit his operation, but he asked that we wait until after snowmelt because the spring thaw is a period when even the best operations can look challenging. Recently, we contacted the producer to visit to his operation and assess what he perceived as his greatest continued on page 4

Director’s Column There are few things that make me groan, but over the past few months I have been at several meetings with discussion topics similar to: “what are the top X practices that all farmers should be required to use to improve water quality?”, “why aren’t more farmers implementing nutrient management?”, “farmers will only adopt conservation practices if we pay them enough”, “farmers don’t care about the environment, they only care about profit” or “if all farmers adopt X practice, water quality will improve”. I don’t groan because these are stupid questions or even bad statements, I am concerned that these questions or statements suggest that the interaction between agriculture and water quality can be summed up in ten items or less, and processed quickly like the express lane at the grocery store. Over the past ten years the data collected from the Discovery Farms Program on farms utilizing different systems in very different landscape conditions has proven that the vast majority of producers (not all) work hard to protect the environment, and when given education, information and training (that they believe in) about how practices or conditions negatively affect the environment, they strive to make changes that reduce the risk of runoff. With that, here are a few questions to think about in the New Year. 99 How do we provide necessary and desired education and training to all/more farmers? 99 How do we engage more farmers and people working with the farm community in reducing the risk of runoff events that negatively affect our environment? 99 How do we develop solutions that are effective and adaptable to the vast array of farming systems, settings and beliefs? 99 How do you provide flexibility for farmers to adapt systems or practices and implement them, and yet have some assurance that practices will be applied in a manner that protects the environment?

If anything, our experience has shown us that the vast majority of producers are working towards, and in many cases believe that they already have sustainable farming systems. In most cases they are looking for education, assistance and validation that their systems are working or not working. In cases where they are not working, most are looking for ways to improve their systems that are cost effective, practical and flexible. Here’s to a happy holiday season and a healthy, prosperous 2012 with endless possibilities.

Dennis Frame 2 The Tree -Winter 2011



urface runoff monitoring performed by the Discovery Farms Program measures both the concentration of various constituents (sediment, phosphorus, nitrogen, etc.) and volume of runoff for individual runoff events. Measured concentrations are usually reported in milligrams/liter (mg/L) or parts per million (ppm) and are used to describe the amount or mass of a constituent per volume of sample (i.e. 1 liter of sampled water). Concentrations alone cannot be used to describe agricultural runoff losses because they don’t take into account the volume of water that the sample represents.

of nearly 2500 mg/L to have very high losses. But in fact, the event with 760 mg/L concentration resulted in more loss. This is because of the difference in volume of runoff. The higher concentration with only 0.001 inches of runoff has a total of 0.6 lbs/acre sediment loss. The event with 0.247 inches of runoff has a total of approximately 43 lbs/acre sediment loss. The magnitude of the runoff volume controls how much loss occurs. Under the situation where the runoff volumes are the same, then indeed the higher concentration would produce a larger yield.

Combining concentrations with the volume of water that the sample represents can provide the total loss or load derived from agricultural landscapes. Loads are the total mass of a constituent per volume of runoff and are usually reported in pounds or tons. Constituent loads are useful for looking at total losses from a farm field/basin. However, using loads alone to compare farm fields or basins can be misleading because loads do not take into account the size of the field or basin. Yields are used to compare multiple fields or basins and are usually reported as pounds/acre or tons/acre. The yield is calculated by taking the total loss or load and dividing by the contributing area (field/basin size). The yield normalizes the data and allows for the data to be compared acre to acre.

A note about the storms, the first storm (left) was an event where 1.2 inches of rain fell in ½ hr in late May when very little crop cover was available. The second storm (right) was an event where 1.3 inches of rain fell in 2 ½ hrs in July; this being the third storm in three days making the total rain fall through that date 3.2 inches. Crop cover was available but soils were saturated. Concentrations, loads, and yields each have a role in describing the quality of agricultural runoff that is important to researchers, policy makers, and producers. In order to accurately describe any type of agricultural losses, both concentration and volume of the water in question is necessary. Furthermore, concentrations vary during a single runoff event; therefore, samples should be taken at different periods throughout the runoff event to accurately assess the losses. §

Figure 1 is an example of how concentrations and resulting yields, of the same basin, can vary between storm events based on the size of the event. The concentrations used here are a composite sample repreSed. Yield Sed. Conc. senting the entire event. However, 50 2500 the same concept applies to a single sample taken at one point in 40 2000 time of the event. The right-hand axis is concentration and corre30 1500 sponds to the blue diamonds. The left-hand axis is yield and corre20 1000 sponds to the green bars. The bot10 500 tom axis is the runoff volume of each of the storm events. Note the 0 0 difference in magnitude of the con0.001 0.247 centration between the two events. Runoff Volume (in) Initially, one would expect the event with a runoff concentration Figure 1: A yield vs. concentration comparison of two storms of different runoff volumes in the same basin.

Yield (lbs/A)

Concentration (mg/L)

Yield vs. Concentration comparison

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continued from Changes to Protect Water Quality on page 1 environmental and management challenge: the area where he overwinters his beef cattle. During this visit the producer walked us out to his pasture and pointed out the area where he used to overwinter, and the area further from the waterway where he was currently feeding his cattle. He explained to us that after hearing information about our overwinter studies, he thought it was best to move the feeder from a waterway in the valley to a spot further up the hill so that the waterway stays vegetated and manure deposited while the cattle were feeding wouldn’t be left in the waterway. His decision to slightly change one management practice will undoubtedly reduce the risk for nutrients leaving his farm via that waterway. His change in practice required no cost share or major changes to his operation, and he had planned and changed this management before we even arrived. However, this change in practice had to fit his ability to feed and care for his livestock. This farm, located in the driftless area, has some steep fields and site selection for the new feeding area had to take into account his ability to get feed to this area even in deep snow and muddy conditions.

In a time when budgets are increasingly tight, and farm programs may not have the fiscal security of years past, we need to figure out how to implement and document management changes that can be achieved without payment or paperwork. The key to this is understanding the partnership between researchers, educators, and producers. As educators or researchers, we can’t assume we have all the answers, and we certainly aren’t the ones with the ability to implement changes on the land. If we provide usable, practical, and meaningful information with this partnership in mind, we can empower farmers to make the best management decisions for their own operations that ultimately lower the risk of nutrient and sediment loss. §

NEW PUBLICATIONS POSTED TO THE WEBSITE! This summer and fall was a busy time for us, as we finalized many of the outstanding publications and materials from projects that we’ve been working on for the past couple of years. You can now find finalized publications on our website on the following topics: 99 Impact of Shallow Vertical Tillage on Soil Disturbance 99 Cover Crops in Wisconsin Farming Systems 99 Cover Crops: Outreach Program in the Rock River Watershed 99 Radish as a Cover Crop: An Introduction 99 Koepke Farms, Inc. Graduation materials (11 Individual Factsheets) 99 Assessing Effects of Hormones Released from Livestock Manure Coming soon: Graduation reports for Heisner Family Dairy, updated information from the watershed projects, and much more! 4 The Tree -Winter 2011

continued from Assessing Effects of Hormones Released from Livestock Manure on page 1 androgenic and progesteronic compounds associated with various types of intensive animal farming. 2. Characterize the environmental transport and fate of natural and synthetic steroid hormones that accompany discharges and the disposal of animal manure. 3. Evaluate how various animal manure handling/management strategies (e.g., lagoon storage and applying liquid manure versus deep-stacking and field application of solid manure) impact the transport, fate, potential exposure, and associated effects of steroid hormones.

First Year Results:

4. Investigate the ecological effects associated with steroid hormones in manure from livestock farms using reproductive, developmental and gene expression endpoints in fathead minnows.

The first year’s efforts focused on the validation of the sample collection, extraction and analytical techniques. The studies focused on the analytical challenges of measuring hormones at nanogram per liter (ng/L) concentrations in these complex environmental matrices. A nanogram per liter is equivalent to a part per trillion. The original plan for collecting the runoff/tile drainage samples was not viable from the perspective of hormone stability, as nearly all of the hormones that were targeted for analysis were rapidly degraded from fieldcollected runoff samples.

Sampling equipment was added to existing Discovery Farms surface water monitoring sites. A sampler was installed to take water samples at a similar location in the flume which was activated by the same sampling signal as the Discovery Farms sampler. Composite samples of 400 mL were taken in 4 bottles (4 samples/bottle) allowing for a total sampling capacity of 16 samples. Many challenges were encountered with both the hormone degradation inhibitors and the samplers in this study. In addition to surface water samples collected with the samplers, grab samples were also collected for this study for tile drainage, winter sampling of runoff events when the samplers were inoperative, raw manure samples, and digester influent and effluent samples.

The study was modified to investigate the use of preservatives to inhibit degradation in samples of surface water runoff from manure-amended fields during storage at 39°F. The results indicated significant degradation of estrogenic, androgenic and progestogenic hormones and activities, which was likely due to microbial activity, within hours of sample collection. Second and third year results: Efforts focused on collecting and analyzing samples from two Discovery Farms and UW-Platteville’s Pioneer Farm. All farms utilize best management practices for manure handling. Surface water runoff and soil were collected from monitoring stations at six edge-of-field study sites from March 2008 to March 2010 and were analyzed for hormone concentrations, estrogenic activity and nutrient concentrations. The majority of the runoff events occurred during February and March when the soil was frozen. Detections in Runoff Progesterone and 4-androstenedione were the most 5

The Tree -Winter 2011

Fish reproduction and early development - reproductively mature minnows were exposed for 26 days to concentrations of 0, 10, 100, and 1000 ng/L A4 in a flow through system. At termination of the study, adults were euthanized, animals were weighed for whole body mass, and secondary sexual characteristics were assessed for abnormalities. A4 exposure significantly decreased male GSI but had no significant effect on fecundity and female GSI. There were no noticeable effects on fertilization, secondary sexual characteristics, and development hatchability.

frequently detected hormones (42% and 36%, respectively) in runoff and occurred at concentrations up to 1,570 parts per trillion (ppt) and 260 ppt, respectively. Estrogens were detected in 19% of the runoff samples, and the most frequently detected estrogen (estradiol, 6.6%) occurred at concentrations up to 35.3 ppt. Zearalenone, an estrogenic compound of fungal origin, was also found in some samples. Estrogenic activity was detected in runoff samples at estradiol equivalent concentrations ranging from 0.09 to 133 ppt. Detections in Soil


The progesterone metabolite, 17,20-dihydroxyrogesterone, was the most frequently detected (14%) hormone in the collected soil samples. The hormones detected at the highest concentrations in soil samples were 98.3 and 124 parts per billion (ppb) for 5α-androstan-3,17dione and 17β-trenbolone, respectively, however, the hormone concentrations in soil samples were generally less than 10 ppb. All soil samples had estradiol equivalent concentrations less than 1.0 ppb.

99 Hormones are rapidly degraded in runoff, which suggests minimal impact on aquatic organisms. 99 Efforts that prevent manure from entering waterways will likely prevent hormones from entering water. 99 Although the majority of runoff and soil samples did not exhibit high levels of hormones, the two hormones that were most frequently found were progesterone and 4-androstenedione.

Exploring ecological effects of steroid hormones Egg production in fathead minnows - the treatments were continuous 3-week exposure to five levels of manure: 0%, 0.1%, 0.3%, 1%, and 3%. There was no significant effect on the number of eggs produced. This is possibly because the levels of hormones may have been too low or hormones associated with the manure were rapidly degraded.

99 These hormones have not been studied to the extent that many other hormones have, especially in terms of occurrence and reproductive endpoints in fish. Progesterone decreasing egg production in fathead minnows is an important discovery.Zearalenone, an estrogenic compound of fungal origin, was found in some samples at concentrations high enough to contribute to the estrogenic activity in the E-screen bioassay.

Sperm motility in fathead minnows - male minnows were exposed to environmentally relevant doses of progesterone (longer-term - 1 week in vivo; short-term – minutes in vitro). Sperm were then video recorded and analyzed by CASA. Minnows continuously exposed for 1 week had a significant dose-dependent reduction in sperm motility. There was no effect of short-term progesterone exposure on sperm swimming characteristics.

Find a copy of the complete factsheet on the UW-Discovery Farms website ( §

Reproduction and embryonic development in the fathead minnow - fish were exposed for 21 days to concentrations of progesterone at 0, 10, 100, and 1000 ng/L. Progesterone caused dose-dependent decreases in fecundity and fertility, and also significantly reduced GSI (gonadosomatic index) and vitellogenin gene induction in females. There were no effects of progesterone on early embryonic development or hatching success. Progesterone may be a significant endocrine disrupting chemical in fish. 6 The Tree -Winter 2011



rainage water management is the practice of controlling the drainage from tile systems to desired levels throughout the year. Water control structures are utilized to typically maintain the water level high in the soil profile after crops are removed to minimize nitrogen (predominantly in the nitrate form) loss to surface water. The control structures are then lowered in the spring to remove excess water from the soil profile to aid in field access and planting. Once crops are planted, the control structures are often raised to hold water for the crops, especially in tile drained fields that are prone to drought stress. Once crops are removed, the control structures are raised to even higher levels to store more water to prevent nutrient loss until spring. The utility of controlling drainage in many of Wisconsin’s tile drained landscapes is limited by the slope of the land. For drainage water management to be practical, slopes of less than ½ percent are suitable for drainage control structures. Slopes higher than ½ percent will only allow for drainage control on a small portion of the land surface and may result in high fluid head pressures in tile systems, resulting in tile blowouts. Many of Wisconsin’s tile drained landscapes are 2 to 6 percent slopes. In a recent summit in Minnesota on drainage water management, some new technologies were presented that may make the utilization of drainage water management more feasible in these higher sloped, tile drained landscapes. An ingenious design of an inline gate that is controlled by downstream pressure has been developed. This new product, the Water Gate™, allows for infield drainage control. This system has two benefits: it is installed underground so as not to interfere with field operations (including deep tillage) and it can be “stair stepped” to control drainage on higher sloped land. The level in each of the Water Gates™ is controlled by the downstream water control structure located either at a field boundary or tile outlet. § The figures below are an internal view of a Water Gate™ and one installed in a tile system. For more general information on drainage water management, view the Extension publication Drainage Water Management in the Midwest at: For additional information on the Water Gate™ and a field test of the system at: and

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University of Wisconsin


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

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Director Dennis Frame
 715-983-2257 Outreach Specialists Kevan Klingberg
 715-983-2240 Eric Cooley
 608-235-5259 Amber Radatz 608-235-5182 Program Assistant Judy Goplin

This newsletter can be found on the web at:

Data/Information Systems Susan Frame
 715-983-5668 Research Specialist Aaron Wunderlin 920-839-5431

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 Wisconsin-Extension. 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.

The Tree  

UW Discovery Farms Program Newsletter