The Bazile Groundwater Management Area (BGMA) is a 756-square mile area with high groundwater nitrate levels in three northeast Nebraska counties. For the past several years, the Nebraska Water Center and UNL Extension have partnered with four area Natural Resources Districts (NRDs) and state and federal agencies to innovatively address these high nitrate levels on multiple fronts.
In 2019, NWC submitted a Nebraska Environmental Trust (NET) grant that helped establish local demonstration farms that model different management practices to reduce nitrogen leaching. The three demonstration farms planted in 2020 include diverse cropping rotations at the Lower Elkhorn NRD, nitrogen inhibitors at the Upper Elkhorn NRD, and soil health at the Lewis & Clark NRD. Advanced technologies like Variable Rate Irrigation (VRI) and soil moisture probes will augment the evaluation of nitrate leaching. NWC played a lead role in establishing an Extension educator position that oversees the on-farm demonstrations and educational programs. (See sidebar on UNL Extension Educator Jeremy Milander.)
In September 2020, UNL helped organize a Demo Farm Field Day with university speakers, industry experts and producers focused on cover crops, no-till farming and VRI. Fifty-two attendees — from a local Future Farmers of America chapter to current farmers and agriculture industry professionals — gained several takeaways, including how practices that promote soil health are economically viable and how cover crops preserve soil integrity.
Complementing these efforts is a new NET-funded citizen science project. Named “Project Citizen Science: A Valuable Approach for Monitoring Groundwater Quality in the Bazile Groundwater Management Area,” the project includes five area high schools: Wausa, Orchard, Creighton, Plainview, and Osmond. The project will help each school sample 30 rural wells through science classes, clubs and Future Farmers of America (FFA) chapters. Former UNL Research Assistant Professor Matteo D’Alessio and civil engineering graduate student Luke Walkenhorst are leading the project. The duo intends to improve upon the methodology of the Know Your Well project.
Lastly, in winter 2021, the BGMA held a series of one-hour virtual meetings with distinguished guest lecturers and UNL water and soil science faculty. Created in 2016, the BGMA plan developed by the local NRDs and Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy was the first federally recognized groundwater-focused plan to address nonpoint source pollution in the nation.
For more information, visit: bgma.nebraska.gov/