Shenandoah Valley crop producers now have a unique opportunity to partner with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to demonstrate how conservation practices are working to improve local water quality. With new edge-of-field monitoring offerings, farmers in the War Branch and Gap Creek sub-watersheds of Smith Creek can receive NRCS payments to install monitoring equipment, collect and analyze data, and track and measure the performance of conservation systems over time.
Interested producers should sign up by June 14 to be considered for FY 13 funding for two conservation activities: monitoring system installation and data collection and evaluation. Monitoring activities will involve a multi-year commitment based on individual crop rotation schedules. NRCS will assist the participant to pair a control field (no management practices) with a treatment field (practices have been installed) and analyze the water flowing off the land. It is expected that the landowner will work jointly with a university or nonprofit organization to perform the monitoring activities in the contract.
“We selected War Branch and Gap Creek because they are located in the NRCS Smith Creek Showcase Watershed,” says State Conservationist John A. Bricker. “Over the last three years, we have conducted extensive outreach activities in Smith Creek, inventoried many of the farms there, and had success with accelerated implementation of Best Management Practices (BMPs).”
“We also benefit from a longstanding partnership with nongovernmental organizations and federal, state, and local agencies and have a commitment from the U.S. Geological Survey to do in-stream water quality monitoring in Smith Creek over the next several years.”
Virginia’s priority needs for edge-of-field monitoring systems include those that address or investigate:
Water quality benefits of cover crops; species selection and purpose (nutrient capture, erosion protection, and/or soil health).
Matching buffer or filter width needs with slopes, erodibility, tillage and crop rotations.
Water quality benefits from a conservation system with at least one practice that simultaneously helps producers avoid, control, and trap nutrient and sediment runoff.
The effects of timing of commercial and manure nutrient application and/or the use of amendments/inhibitors on production and nitrogen and phosphorus losses.
The additional Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) funding is part of a $7 million national allocation to implement these activities in watersheds associated with various NRCS initiatives, including the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative (CBWI).
For more information about this funding opportunity, contact Harrisonburg District Conservationist Cory Guilliams at 540-433-2901, ext. 118, or Strasburg District Conservationist Mike Liskey at 540-465-2424, ext. 108. For more information about NRCS’ programs, initiatives and services in Virginia, contact your local NRCS office or visit us online at www.va.nrcs.usda.gov/.