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National Water Quality Initiative Sends Help to Northern Mississippi Farmers

Ripley, Miss. - Year after year, Mike Graves loses his battle to the ever-eroding North Tippah Creek.  His fields of soybeans, corn and wheat disappear after a big rain, and he's worried of the effects downstream, and even worse, what will happen in future years.

But help is on the way for Graves and other nearby landowners.  The national Water Quality Initiative began in 2012 and works to improve water quality by preventing erosion and runoff of pollutants.  NWQI is providing financial assistance for farmers, like Graves, who want to implement conservation practices on their land.

Rober Kroger, PhD is working with Mr. Graves to install monitoring stations on his farm.  Kroger, Assistant Professor of Aquatic Systems Management in the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Aquaculture at Mississippi State University is using NWQI funding to understand the effectiveness of cover crops in controlling erosion and improving water quality.An automated water quality monitoring station

John Estes, MS NRCS Soil Conservationist, assisted Mr. Graves and Dr. Kroger with Financial assistance through the initiative and hopes the collected data with educate farmers on how they can benefit from the use of cover crops on their land.

A new program called REACH, which stands for Research and Education to Advance Conservation and habitat, will allow Kroger to monitor the water quality on cover crops on two different fields during a six year project.  This is first time NRCS of Mississippi has done Edge of Field monitoring with conservation practices with a landowner.

The REACH partnership includes NRCS along with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce, and Mississippi State University to monitor water quality and understand conservation in the North Tippah watershed.

Through NRCS conservation activities, the 201 practice allows for data analysis over six years and the 202 component is a onetime equipment deal.  Tillage radishes will be planted as cover crops on Mr. Graves' farm due to their deep penetrating roots to reduce compaction, and contribution to soil health.  Since cover crops are not common in Mississippi, this project will initiate learning efforts of how cover crops can assist with nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment control on the land.

With only 25 contracts of its kind nationwide, the project has Dr. Kroger envisioning a bright future into the effects of conservation.

He said, "NRCS is in the business of conservation delivery.  Now we're trying to get a handle of what conservation is doing."

Discussing how best to monitor the role of cover crops for water quality improvement