Agriculture is changing and one of Rush City’s farms is leading the way. Petersen Farms of Rush City, Inc. is the third Chisago County farm to become certified in the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program, a voluntary program for agricultural producers to implement conservation practices that protect our water and their land.  In turn for being water-aware and friendly, MAWQCP certified farms are deemed compliant with any new regulations for ten years, including the new Minnesota Buffer Law.  Certified farms are recognized for their achievement and will receive priority for technical and financial assistance if enhancements are needed.

The Chisago Soil and Water Conservation District helped guide third generation operator Lance Petersen through the application program. An assessment is completed of the farm, looking for ways the farmer is being cognizant of water quality and for any potential erosion or other water quality issues on the farm that need attention.  Shane Hultman of the Chisago SWCD completed this assessment for Petersen Farms of Rush City and found that Lance was already implementing many water quality practices through current conservation tillage methods, a responsible fertilizer plan, and an intensive scouting regiment for diseases and pests.

Using conservation practices that may not be the norm for East Central Minnesota is nothing new for the Petersens. In 1958, Lance’s grandfather E. Howard began to use cover crops on the family farm.  In the 1970s, Lance’s father Chuck was the first in the area to begin the transition from moldboard plowing to chisel plowing to lessen the erosion impact of a fall tillage pass.  In that same decade, Chuck and E. Howard experimented with the use of a no-till planter.  As Lance began participating more in the farm operation in the mid- to late-2000s, conservation tillage took on another form for Petersen Farms of Rush City; this time it was in the use of strip tillage.  Strip tillage is the main conservation practice the Petersens use on their corn and soybean crops, meaning they only till in the row where the seed will actually be planted.  This helps keep soil in place by reducing disturbance between rows, leaving two thirds of the soil undisturbed and allowing for water to infiltrate between the strips rather than run off during heavy rain events.  Other benefits to strip tillage include fuel and labor savings thanks to fewer passes across the field and the ability to place fertilizer into the soil next to the seed.

At the center of the Petersens nutrient management plan is the use of Best Management Practices for nitrogen application on corn. These practices include split applying the total amount of nitrogen needs for the crop, instead of one application prior to planting, sub-surface band placement to concentrate nitrogen in the soil near the roots to reduce potential losses that would occur with surface application, and applying the correct amount of nitrogen based on the crop potential for each field, as well as using the correct type of fertilizer for the time of year.

One of the highest scoring practices for the Petersens was their Integrated Pest Management program (IPM). A farm that practices IPM has determined what thresholds of pest or disease damage they can tolerate without too much impact to production.  Promoting beneficial insects, using crop rotation, and vigilant monitoring help to reduce the use of pesticides on the farm.  In the case that a threshold is reached, the least harmful pesticides are used to control the problem.  This is in contrast to a “spray by schedule” regime where pesticides are utilized even if there are no pest or disease issues in the field at the time.

Lance has planted cover crops on some fields to prevent possible soil erosion when the field is not in production for a season, and has installed buffers around any inlets he has for drainage into public ditches to filter the water as it leaves the field.

“The Chisago SWCD would like to recognize the hard work being done by the Petersen Farms of Rush City,” stated Craig Mell, District Administrator of the Chisago SWCD. “They are ahead of the curve here in Chisago County and it’s great to see them be rewarded for their willingness to try new methods.  It’s incredibly important for our local water quality that we work together with farmers to come up with ways to make conservation work.”

For more information about the MAWQCP process or to get started with your farm, contact Shane Hultman of the Chisago SWCD at 651-674-2333 or stop in the office at 38814 Third Avenue, North Branch.