Recognizing the growing need for innovation, research, and outreach to help solve the water quality challenges facing agricultural producers in the state, UW-Madison Extension is expanding capacity by creating a new program that will work on these issues with communities, farmers, and farm advisors. The program adds additional support and structure for new collaborations and initiatives to conduct research and education to improve water quality related to agricultural production.
The new Agriculture Water Quality Program will be created within Extension’s Agriculture Institute. It will centralize and build on the research, knowledge, and experience of faculty and staff in Extension who have been working on this issue – including Extension’s successful Discovery Farms program that conducts field research with and for farmers. Discovery Farms will continue to provide vital connections to farmers for on-field research of water quality.
The Ag Water Quality Program will focus on the links between agricultural production practices and water quality impacts. Core efforts will help audiences understand relative benefits of practices to watershed and water quality protection, groundwater/surface water interactions, and other resource benefits. The program will be a hub for internal and external partners in all related fields to collaborate.
“Water quality issues present a significant and mounting challenge to agricultural producers and the communities we serve,” said Heidi Johnson, Director of Extension’s Agriculture Institute. “Farmers and other agricultural professionals are looking for meaningful solutions to agricultural impacts on water quality, especially when faced with increased climate challenges, new techniques and technologies, and a resounding public demand for action.”
The program will be led by Extension Outreach Program Managers Amber Radatz and John Exo. Radatz has served as Co-Director of Extension’s Discovery Farms since 2013. Discovery Farms will continue to conduct on-farm water quality research and monitoring efforts within the new Ag Water Quality program area and will continue to be led by current Co-Director Eric Cooley. Exo is a Water Quality Programs Coordinator for the UW-Madison College of Agricultural & Life Sciences, and he will be returning to Extension where he spent 22 years as a co-director and educator in the Natural Resources Education Program.