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U of M developing sustainable farming practices for changing climate

LAMBERTON, Minn. (KTTC) – Minnesota is no stranger to extreme and fluctuating weather, but this year’s wet and cool spring caused major planting delays for farmers.

In response to farmers falling behind, the University of Minnesota’s Southwest Research and Outreach Center is helping farmers adapt to changing conditions.

In Lamberton, the research and outreach center is working on developing sustainable practices made for changing growing conditions.

“We’re talking about complex problems and complex problems require complex solutions often.” said UM soil scientist Jeff Strock.

Changing climate patterns are forcing farmers to adapt certain practices. In addition to the difficult past two seasons of excess rainfall, farmers have witnessed some extreme conditions.

“We’ve had record months of precipitation in our county followed by the next month where we have are record setting dry period.” Strock said.

At the Univeristy of Minnesota’s Southwest Research and Outreach Center, work is being done to preserve water and nutrients on the farm.

“We’re that state of 10,000 lakes so water is important to us,” said Strock. “When we think of these excess water conditions we’ve had the past two years, we’ve got to think about how we are going to manage the nutrients and sediment that might have been lost in those systems.”

Cover cropping is a useful strategy to allow greater water infiltration and prevent erosion, yet it is costly to farmers. The research center is working with relay cropping, a kind of double cropping where one plant is grown into another.

“We’re looking at that as a potential crop diversification strategy,” Strock said. “It’ll provide farmers not only with the corn and soybeans that they’re used to growing, but another crop they could potentially grow that could provide cover as well as income.”

The research center is also looking to utilize resources that state already has, such as miles of drainage ditches.

“I call it 27 thousand miles of opportunities because it’s an opportunity for us to mange the nutrients in the water before they get off of the farms and the landscape.” said Strock.

Another area of focus is extending the growing period. The use of high tunnels, a greenhouse-like structure, allows producers to get a head start in cooler months.

“How do we have profitable, productive farming, but also good environmental quality. That comes along with the changes in climate that we have to deal with.” concluded Strock.

With projected warmer temperatures and even more extreme weather, the diverse crops of the lower Midwest may well move their way back up to Minnesota.

As a result, Strock says they are working on introducing grasses and grains to a new generation of farmers.


Alex Tejada

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