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MN DNR received 250 irrigation permit requests in 2012

By Carol Stender

Date Modified: 03/12/2013 2:59 PM

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SAUK CENTRE, Minn. — The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has seen a big increase in irrigation permit requests as forecasts call for continuing drought conditions.

The DNR typically processes around 45 permits annually, said Princesa VanBuren Hanson at last week's Irrigators Association of Minnesota convention in Sauk Centre. Landowners made 250 permit requests in 2012, she said.

A handful of watersheds are suspended from irrigation activity, Hanson said. If the drought continues and grows in 2013, the DNR has a plan to limit or suspend irrigation activities.

Restricting water use isn't on state lawmakers' dockets, said ag lobbyist Bruce Kleven.

But the challenge continues for irrigators to get the word out to the Legislature on how irrigators use the resource, said IAM president Alan Peterson in an interview following the convention. It's especially important with drought conditions.

Hanson applauded irrigators' practices.

"You are all doing a better job with the water you are using to get better crops," she said. "Pat yourselves on the back."

Researchers are studying irrigation and soil fertility, said Bruce Montgomery, of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. Researchers are studying nutrient recommendations and looking at best management practices for irrigation. The research is also ongoing in Dakota County. It is part of a public-private effort.

Research results from the Rosholt farm in 2012 showed a moderate loss of nitrogen due to drought, said researcher Josh Stamper. Major precipitation events drive N loss due to leaching.

An irrigation project in East Otter Tail uses the factors of evapotranspiration to determine water use for irrigation. The SWCD received IAM's service award for their efforts.

Farmers can use the information gathered by the SWCD to determine if and how much irrigation should take place.

The state has three weather stations in East Otter Tail and is looking to expand its efforts. Every station would cover 20 miles of irrigated area.

IAM members were encouraged to learn that funding has been included in the state budget for a University of Minnesota Extension irrigator position. The position has been vacant since the retirement of Extension specialist Jerry Wright.

Organization members also support an initiative calling for digital photos of copper taken to scrap dealers. Current law calls for dealers to get cooper sellers' names, vehicle type and license plates. While the information is good, a digital photo would be beneficial to catching and prosecuting those stealing copper.

Copper thefts are an issue in the farming community, including the theft of irrigation equipment that may contain copper.