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Wheatgrass helping to keep Chatfield’s water clean

Publication: Bluff Country Newspaper Group

Author: Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

City officials are finding that perennial crop cover wheatgrass may just be the way to improve water quality in Chatfield.

“We have nitrate levels of 0.4 to 0, and it’s showing that the roots are using up the nitrates, doing their job.  We’ve got a ways to go yet, but we’re gaining, as far as I can tell.  It’s showing that the Kernza is using nitrates the way it should be,” stated Chatfield city maintenance supervisor Brian Burkholder, telling about the farming he, a non-farmer, has witnessed and done as part of his job.

Intermediate wheatgrass, also known by the trademarked name Kernza and developed by the University of Minnesota and the Land Institute in Kansas, has made a difference in the city’s drinking water since it was planted on a total of 11 acres – three of those belonging to the city and the other eight belonging to local farmer Paul Novotny – two years ago on land near the city’s drinking water wells. The pilot project planting was part of Chatfield’s wellhead protection plan for its drinking water service management areas (DWSMA), because the plant is thirsty for water running off hillsides and is able to extract nitrates from the runoff, cleaning aquifers from which the city’s drinking water is drawn.

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