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USDA announces awards to put conservation innovation to work

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The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is awarding more than $24 million in grants designed to help partners implement and evaluate innovative approaches that have demonstrated conservation benefits on farmland. The funding is provided through On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials (On-Farm Trials), a new component of the Conservation Innovation Grants first authorized in the 2018 Farm Bill.

“The Conservation Innovation Grants program is funding the future of conservation and agriculture,” said NRCS Chief Matthew Lohr. “These On-Farm Trials will allow us to put the latest innovations in conservation to work on the land, while providing new data to show producers across the nation what these systems and practices can do for the health of their operations and our natural resources.”

On-Farm Trials awardees work with NRCS and farmers and ranchers to implement innovative practices and systems on their lands that have not yet been widely adopted by producers. Awardees are required to evaluate the conservation and economic outcomes from these practices and systems, giving NRCS critical information to inform conservation work in the future.

Sixteen projects are receiving On-Farm Trials awards, including nine awards under the banner of the Soil Health Demonstration Trial. These nine projects focus on the adoption and evaluation of soil health management systems and practices. The remaining seven projects focus on irrigation water management, precision agriculture, and a variety of management technologies.

Awardees include:

  • The Soil and Water Conservation Society: Proposes to work with almost 50 producers to carry out trials or comprehensive zone nutrient management and precision cover crop strategies. The Soil and Water Conservation Society is partnering with several agriculture retailer co-ops on the project, which includes economic and social evaluations of the on-farm activities.
  • Water Resources Monitoring Group: Proposes to partner with local ag organizations in Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin and others to carry out trials of innovative cover crop approaches with at least 120 ag producers. Part of the Soil Health Demonstration Trial, this project will use a replicated strip, field and paired-basin scale approach to robustly measure the conservation, economic and social outcomes of the field trials.
  • Clemson University: Proposes to work with 18 farmers in South Carolina to implement its Clemson Water Management System, which combines sensor-based and site-specific water application technologies with an Internet-of-Things approach to make precise water application information available on a handheld device in real time. The field trials intend to demonstrate that the system can enhance water use efficiency and farm profits while reducing energy use and nutrient leaching into groundwater.

For a full list of recipients or to learn more, visit the On-Farm Trials webpage.

Any views or opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect those of AGDAILY. Comments on this article reflect the sole opinions of their writers.
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