CRWP insects

Field day participants learned how stream insects help us estimate how clean the water is, since some insects species can tolerate water pollution and others cannot. Participants then caught bugs with aquatic bug nets.

NORTHFIELD, Minn. — Turnout was high when the Cannon River Watershed Partnership (in partnership with Rice Soil and Water Conservation District, St. Olaf College, University of Minnesota Extension, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency) hosted a field day outside of Northfield, Minn. on Sept. 16.

Cover Crops, Tillage and Trout” took place at  the Helgeson Farm. Host Roger Helgeson’s property has been in his family for several generations and is right on Rice Creek, the only self-sustaining trout stream in Rice County.

Many acres of Helgeson’s property are rented to his neighbor and local farmer John Becker. The gathered group heard first-hand how Becker integrates cover crops and no-till and strip-till planting into his farming practices. Becker is a certified Minnesota Ag Water Quality farmer and he shared how he achieved that feat by working with his CFS crop consultant to use the TruTerra Insights nutrient management planning program by Land-O’Lakes SUSTAIN.

St. Olaf Associate Professor of Chemistry and Environmental Studies Dr. Paul Jackson spoke about the ongoing research into trends in nitrates in farm fields’ tile drainage lines and Rice Creek. Jackson and Kathy Shea, Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies, are spearheading the project which will cover three years of testing.

Rice SWCD’s Teresa DeMars and the University of Minnesota Extension’s Claire LaCanne shared results from a simple way to test soil health biology followed by a rainfall simulator demonstration by Dean Thomas, Soil Health Technician from Fillmore County SWCD in conjunction with the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources.

The more than 60 attendees tried their hands at a “stream table” with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service presented by Fish Habitat Biologist Heidi Keuhler. Through the exercise, participants learned how tile drainage water can be better managed to avoid nutrient losses from Keegan Kult, Executive Director of the Agricultural Drainage Management Coalition. They also collected insects in the stream and observed an electro-fishing demonstration conducted by Craig Soupir and his staff from the Waterville Area Fisheries of the Minnesota DNR. They were able to see examples of Brook Trout and Black Nosed Dace.

 “This field day was all about connections — how the cropping practices on the field are connected to the fertilizers and sediment that enters the stream and how the fertilizers and sediment in the stream water are connected to the plants and animals that live in the stream. Community members and a variety government agency representatives and non-profit organizations learned how they’re connected to the economic well-being of farmers and how they can support them as they work to improve water quality in our area,” said Alan Kraus, CRWP Conservation Program Manager.

To learn more about CRWP’s clean water projects, visit

Kevin Strauss can be reached by calling (507) 786-3913; or via e-mail at

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