Dr. Lindsay Pease is leading the effort.
Wondering what was happening in the fields near Drafts Sports Bar & Grill last week? No, it didn’t have anything to do with sugar beet harvest. The University of Minnesota Northwest Research and Outreach Center installed subsurface tile drains in their new research plots with the help of Dr. Lindsay Pease, Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist in Nutrient and Water Management for NWROC in the Soils, Water and Climate Department. Pease will be conducting long-term water drainage research on how the system will help crop yields plus she’ll be monitoring levels of fertilizer, specifically nitrogen and phosphorus, that are being discharged.
The subsurface tile drains were installed October 18 and will stay there permanently, Pease told the Times.
“The field that we’re draining and the position of the pumping stations will route all of the drainage water (surface and subsurface) to the north,” she explained. “This water eventually drains into a storm sewer on UMN Crookston campus where it moves directly to the Red Lake River west of town.”
Pease added that people who live on the north end of town won't see any additional water because of this drainage project.
The NWROC worked with Ellingson Companies on the design and Ellingson installed the pipes, which are spaced 50-feet apart, and the tiles. Pease’s contact at Ellingson Companies is Mike Enright, a Crookston resident and University of Minnesota Crookston graduate.
“My goal was to go through the process just like a farmer would so that I can help others out,” Pease declared. “I plan to be open about what's going well and what's not going well as we continue to monitor our system.”
“The Northwest Research and Outreach Center owns and farms this land, so if we do see high levels of fertilizer coming off the field, I will be working with our director Albert Sims and our farm manager Lionel Olson on different strategies to lower the concentrations,” she added.
Pease said her goal will be to “minimize fertilizer losses while maintaining a profitable operation.”
“One of the things that makes the Research Center unique is that we use the profit from our farm operations to support the research that goes on here. The other part of my research will focus on what strategies work best to reduce fertilizer loss in drainage runoff. Lowering rates of fertilizer is by no means the only solution. We can also look at different placement of fertilizer in the soil profile, different timing of applications, and ways to filter fertilizer out of drainage water that happen at the edge-of-field rather than in-field,” Pease detailed.