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Oct 23

Changing The Face of Fall Fertilizer?

Posted on October 23, 2017 at 6:02 PM by Ryan Hiniker


Drainage update 10/23/2017

Writer's note: I will be out of the office for a week, so there will be no blog next Monday, October 30.  We'll catch up when I return.

Upcoming Drainage Hearings or Meetings:

No upcoming meetings or hearings.

Project Updates


  • CD56 (Garden City Twp & Lincoln Twp.)  All major repairs and seeding are completed for this repair project.  We do have a few tile outlets to fix towards the southern end of the open ditch system.  This repair project should be completely done very soon, I’m hoping, as we are starting on two more projects yet this year.
  • CD28 (Lincoln Twp.)  I know we haven’t spoken about this project in a while, but we have a few remaining checklist items to finish.  Some equipment should be moved back into the original working site yet this week, with crews to follow next Monday, October 30.  Crews need to finish constructing a concrete control weir and repair some sink hole issues from the old CMP line.
  • CD12 (Mankato Twp.)  Engineering stakes are out and ready for crews to show up and start doing some open ditch cleaning.  Crews should be starting this week sometime.


Clean Water vs. Fall Fertilizer:

With excessive nitrate levels in drinking water systems on the rise, the proposed MDA (Minnesota Department of Agriculture) fall fertilizer rule is being heavily watched.  Studies are finding that one out of every ten private wells are found to be at or above legal limits for nitrates.  For those unfamiliar with the proposed fertilizer rule, the purpose of it would be to reduce the different sources of nitrates that are entering the state's groundwater and drinking water sources.  The proposed rule contains two parts:

·         Part 1: Fall and frozen soil fertilizer restrictions; if a farm is located in a part of the state considered to have vulnerable groundwater, nitrogen fertilizer applications in the fall or frozen soils may be restricted.

·         Part 2:  Nitrogen fertilizer BMP’s (best management practices); If a farm is in an area that has preexisting high concentrations of nitrate in the groundwater, then a practice of mitigation will be used.  There are four different levels of mitigation each with increasing restrictions.  Use of nitrogen fertilizer BMP’s through multiple mitigation practices are just one component to improving groundwater and drinking wells.

Contaminated drinking wells are not only dangerous, but they are very costly to fix once exposed to high levels of nitrates.  Private homeowners have the choice in whether or not they want to fix their nitrate issues on their own private water supplies.  Cities, churches, nursing homes, and resorts don’t have a choice; they either figure out a way to pay for the repairs or they may have to close their doors.  Many feel that it’s an unfair responsibility to have to bear when the contamination came from farm fertilizers. 

On the other side of the spectrum, many farmers feel that they couldn’t get everything done in time without fall fertilizer.  From a standpoint of logistics, it would be next to impossible to get that much fertilizer product out and applied in such a short window in spring.  In areas where nitrate levels are out of hand in drinking water wells, the state is considering forcing landowners to put land into idle acres or using cover crops to hold onto nitrogen in the soil.

It’s a balancing act between clean drinking water and Minnesota agriculture, especially when agriculture is a $19 billion portion of our economy annually.  Many communities have already started making changes to their drinking wells and improving the technology to keep the water clean.  These updates and changes usually come at a high price.  The smaller the community, the higher the price per household to pay for needed repairs.  It’s not going to be an overnight fix, and there will be a high price to pay to keep our drinking waters safe for future generations.  For more reading about this subject click here.



Recent Drainage Inspections – week of October 16 – October 20:


  • CD56 (Garden City& Lincoln Twp.) Repairing a few missed tile outlets into open ditch.
  • CD57 (Beauford Twp.) We still have some issues of damage along the open ditch portion of this system from the destructive storms of 2016.  Photo below shows a 20 foot section of 7 foot tall pipe that blew apart from the rest of the field crossing.cd57
  • CD28 (Lincoln Twp.)  Crews will be moving equipment back in soon to finish the concrete weir structure and the last few repairs of tying in old tile to the new system.
  • CD97 (Garden City Twp.)  Met with landowner to discuss ideas of how to clear trees and install a new buffer and also remove three beaver dams that are holding back a fair amount of water.



Please call with issues you observe on our public drainage system, as there is a lot of open ditch and tile in our county and only two of us in the drainage department.  We will do our absolute best to service your issues and concerns as we receive them.


We require that all repairs to a county drainage system (tile or open ditch) be authorized by one us in the drainage office, either Craig or myself, before any repairs are made.




Ryan Hiniker

Drainage Management Specialist