Protecting our valued natural resources


Photo courtesy of UW Discovery Farms

Discovery Farms is a cooperative effort between Wisconsin farmers, UW-Extension and UW-Madison. This farmer-led program develops on-farm and related research by gathering credible and unbiased water quality information from different types of farming systems, in landscapes throughout Wisconsin. Information gathered is used to implement environmental management practices that are compatible with profitable agriculture.

  • Research includes comprehensive results from Wisconsin farms that represent different landscapes and farming systems including organic, conventional and pasture based dairies, swine, beef, poultry and crop farms.
  • Discovery Farms encompasses 27 total monitoring sites: 19 have been or will be in place for four to seven years. In 2014, 10 different farms were hosting monitoring stations.
  • Requests for presentations and educational materials predominantly include: critical time periods for runoff, controlling nutrient losses from manure, manure management during challenging time periods like winter and spring, managing agricultural tile drainage to minimize nutrient loss from fields, understanding the impacts of tillage on water quality, and feed storage leachate and impacts on water quality.
  • UW-Discovery Farms hosts 8-10 educational meetings each year for farmers, agricultural consultants, agency partners and community stakeholders. Current topics are nitrogen management, conservation and erosion control, and understanding runoff through specific conditions and time periods.
  • Annually, UW-Discovery Farms presents results and information at more than 80 additional meetings and events, writes and contributes to 12-15 popular press articles and radio interviews, and publishes results in 4-8 newsletters and other publications. Newsletter email and print lists include 1,300 recipients.
  • The Discovery Farms network will include farms assessing Nitrogen Use Efficiency. This will add 50+ farms each year to the Wisconsin network in a collaborative project with Wisconsin farmers, agricultural consultants, and UW-Madison researchers.
  • In 2014, Discovery Farms added two monitoring stations and a new farm in Rock County. Staff will use these farms to evaluate water quality impact of grain and livestock systems, with plans to add two more farms in 2015 if sufficient funding is available.