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Science and Technology FAQs

Q. What are the electronic Field Office Technical Guide and the Field Office Technical Guide?

A. The technical guide is now available online! Go to: eFOTG (electronic Field Office Technical Guide).

The NRCS Field Office Technical Guide (FOTG) is a compilation of resource information about soil, water, air, plant, animal, and socio-economic resources within each NRCS field office area. It also contains other conservation planning aides, including standards for conservation practices that are applicable for the area served by the field office. The FOTG is divided into 5 sections.

Section 1: General Resource References

Books, booklets, maps, price bases, crop budgets, and other reference documents that contain information about natural resources and conditions within that FOTG service area.

Section 2: Resource Data

All data sets that are needed for field office activities, including soils data and interpretations, water quality information, and climatic data.

Section 3: Conservation Management Systems

Criteria for development of systems, including resource management systems, are included in this section.

Section 4: Practice Standards, Specifications, and Supplements

Conservation practice standards used with resources in the field office area are included here. Practice standards contain minimum quality criteria for each practice as well as a description of requirements necessary to install the practice. NRCS's state-level specialists add new information as it becomes available.

Section 5: Conservation Effects

This section focuses on anticipated effects of practices contained in Section 4 on resources that occur in the field office area. Effects observed in field follow-through are also recorded here.

FOTG is a continually evolving reference. Because technologies change, and our knowledge of resources grows, the FOTG will never be completed. Our forthcoming SmarTech project will expedite access to new technologies through Web interactive capability.

The FOTG is a key conservation element. NRCS's National Planning Procedures Handbook, its technical handbooks and manuals, and the FOTG provide the basic framework for high quality conservation.

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Q. How do Practice Standards get into the Field Office Technical Guide (FOTG)?

A. National level conservation practice standards are published in the National Handbook of Conservation Practices under the auspices of The National Conservation Practice Standards Subcommittee (NCPSS). The Subcommittee is a function of the National Technical Guide Committee. Conservation practice standards undergo rigorous research and public review before they are adopted as national standards. All national standards are reviewed and updated on a 5-year cycle.

State Conservationists, through their State technical guide committee, direct which national practice standards are selected for inclusion into the FOTGs for their respective State. Those State-level selections are made considering the conservation and resource needs of the State.

Selection of national practices for inclusion does not end the process. Generally, national practice standards are modified by each State to that State's unique resource concerns, State laws, and local ordinances. In addition, State technical specialists or teams develop site-specific practice specifications.

In instances where there are resource concerns within a State for which there are no national conservation practice standard, the State Conservationist can authorize the use of a State interim standard. Interim standards serve as a mechanism for field testing new technology. Successful interim standards will be developed into new or incorporated into existing national standards.

After all these activities, the practice standards (and its specification) are ready for inclusion in the field office FOTG. It is a process that ensures that the technical guidance within each standard provided is pertinent to field office conditions.


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Q. What is the Partnership Management Team?

A. The Partnership Management Team (PMT) is a team of scientists and administrators from the Agricultural Research Service, the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service that carry out collaborative efforts for NRCS research needs in reference to natural resources and environmental issues. The vision of the PMT is to coordinate and collaborate on the development of science-based research and information to conserve, improve, and sustain our nations natural resources and environment. The team established a formal partnership in accordance with an interagency Memorandum of Understanding signed on October 2, 2000.

The PMT established a research needs-request system, a web-based worksheet, that enables NRCS staff to submit research and technology development needs on a continuous bases. This database of needs is prioritized and communicated to ARS for technical response. The database can be inquired at the website listed below.

Some of the benefits of the PMT to NRCS are as follows:

  • Increases ARS responsiveness of NRCS field level technology and research development needs
  • Implements a systematic process for acquiring and prioritizing NRCS technology and research needs
  • Tracks research that will help NRCS address its accountability
  • Increases customer input and access to technology development and research activities

Go to the Partnership Management Team web site for more information.