Conservation Practice Enables Farmers to Measure Benefits of Investments in Targeted Arkansas Watersheds
LITTLE ROCK, June 12, 2015 –USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is making available $2 million to interested farmers to help install voluntary edge-of-field monitoring stations on agricultural lands in eight states, including Arkansas.
Farmers and landowners in Arkansas have until July 17, 2015, to submit applications to receive financial assistance through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to monitor edge of field water quality on agricultural lands in 149 targeted watersheds throughout the state.
“Edge-of-field water quality monitoring helps us evaluate the benefits of conservation at the field level,” said Mike Sullivan, NRCS state conservationist for Arkansas. “This voluntary effort will increase economic efficiency for the producer and maximize yields while also conserving natural resources.”
Through edge-of-field monitoring, NRCS works with farmers and conservation partners, such as universities and non-governmental organizations, to monitor the amount of nutrients and sediment in water runoff from a field, and compare the improvements under different conservation systems. Conservation practices typically evaluated include planting cover crops and using no till, irrigation water management, and practices to reduce and trap nutrients and sediment.
Landowners will work closely with one or more of the monitoring partners including the USDA Agricultural Research Service, University of Arkansas at Fayetteville (UofA), UofA Cooperative Extension Service, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, and Arkansas State University. These groups will assist NRCS with monitoring activities within their respective watershed once landowners are approved and equipment has been installed.
Monitoring stations enable NRCS to measure at the edge of farm fields rather than try to estimate conservation effects from in-stream measurements that are subject to influences outside of the farmer’s control. Edge-of-field monitoring, combined with instream monitoring, can provide a more thorough picture of improvements within a watershed.
The funding is available to interested farmers in 327 watersheds across Arkansas, Indiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Vermont and Wisconsin.
The financial assistance, available through EQIP, helps farmers install and maintain the monitoring systems for up to nine years.
NRCS first introduced edge-of-field monitoring as an opportunity through Farm Bill conservation programs in 2013 and has already funded the installation of 25 monitoring projects.
The results of data collected will be maintained confidentially for farmers’ use and for use by the conservation partners responsible for monitoring.
Interested farmers should contact their local USDA service center for more information.