MONTEVIDEO -- Clean Up the River Environment recognized the Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative for its success story in reducing both the nitrogen and phosphorus that can pollute local waters.

The organization honored the cooperative with its first ever "good business award'' at its annual meeting on Feb. 11 in Montevideo, according to a new release.

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The Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative and its producers have been successfully working to reduce the amount of nitrogen applied to fields. Last year the cooperative reported that the average amount of nitrogen applied per acre has dropped from 150 pounds to 130.

The practice has rewards for both the environment and producers. The purposeful reduction has led to greater yields and a higher purity or better quality beet at harvest time. It also reduces the amount of excess nitrogen that can make its way into waterways.

Sugar beets will consume large amounts of nitrogen if it is available in the soil, but not always to the good. Too much nitrogen often results in a leafy, green canopy and dilution of the sugar in the beet.

Reducing nitrogen use requires diligent management by growers, and good science. The company and its growers take over 50,000 soil samples each year to tailor nitrogen application to the needs of individual fields.

Along with reducing nitrogen, the company and growers are increasingly seeding cover crops with beets to reduce erosion and phosphorus losses. The company reports than an ever growing percentage of fields are now being seeded with early emerging cover crops.

CURE also honored the Wang and Hawk Creek Townships boards of supervisors with their first "good government'' award. Both townships have used their power of local control to start developing long range, land use ordinances with aims of protecting the water, scenic and biological integrity of the Upper Minnesota River watershed, according to a news release from CURE.

The Upper Minnesota River organization also honored Dr. Laurel Gamm, M.D., and founder of the Putting Green Environmental Education Miniature Golf Course near New Ulm with its River Keeper award. The 18-hole course opened last summer and saw more than 7,000 rounds of golf. The course teaches players about watersheds, manure management, wetland restoration and renewable energy along with the history of the Minnesota River, CURE reported.

It presented the good media award to Jonathan Hegland of Riverside Projections of Appleton for his video production that documents CURE's work through the previous year.