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News Release

Iowa Conservation Innovation Grants Heavy on Soil Health

Paul Goldsmith

Des Moines, IA, Sept. 16, 2013 — Improving the health of Iowa soil is the goal behind several of Iowa’s projects selected this month through USDA’s Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) program.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) administers the CIG program, and recently set sail on a campaign to “Unlock the Secrets in the Soil.” First-year Iowa NRCS State Conservationist Jay Mar believes the selected projects will help support his agencies’ mission to improve soil health in the state. “Even though many of the projects focus on soil health, they do it in very different ways,” he said, “from researching innovative ways to create healthier soil to conservation lease agreements to finding cover crop seed solutions.”

NRCS is providing $578,374 to the 10 projects, which range from 1-3 years. Grant recipients are all non-governmental organizations partnering with other organizations to help them complete their goals. Below is a complete list of Iowa’s 2013 CIG projects:

  • Cedar Basin Crop Consulting, Inc. of Decorah will coordinate a project with conservation partners to help build resiliency to climate change by improving soil health and nitrogen management through the use of soil quality testing and the Adapt-N Management Tool. ($75,000 through Sept. 30, 2015)
  • City of Griswold to help fund the use of winter-hardy cover crops to help reduce nitrates from non-point sources in the city’s municipal wells and water supply. ($62,000 through Sept. 20, 2016)
  • Iowa Soybean Association to develop cover crop and soil health implementation planning and evaluation protocol for Iowa farmers. ($59,573 through March 31, 2016)
  • Drake University Agricultural Law Center to conduct demonstrations of conservation farm lease contracts to promote soil conservation and health and nutrient management. ($26,652 through Sept. 30, 2014)
  • Iowa State University to evaluate planting technologies for the successful establishment of cover crop mixtures and single species in Iowa. ($75,000 through Dec. 31, 2015)
  • Boone Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD) for a mobile soil health outreach laboratory to educate central Iowa’s agricultural community about soil health-improving technologies and practices. ($39,280 through Sept. 30, 2015)
  • Keyline Silvopasture to research ways of reducing soil erosion and increasing forage yields, livestock comfort, and water-holding capacity of grassland soils and ecosystems. ($63,305 through Sept. 20, 2014)
  • Trees Forever, Inc. to provide outreach to landowners and resource conservation professionals about long-term reductions in nutrient loading through agroforestry in Iowa. ($28,044 through Sept. 30, 2016)
  • Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation for tools and training for Technical Service Providers (TSPs) who provide farm flood mitigation plans. ($75,000 through Sept. 30, 2015)
  • Iowa League of Resource Conservation & Development (RC&Ds) offices to find ways to communicate with people traveling Iowa’s byways about Iowa’s agricultural landscapes and innovative conservation systems that are being used to protect and preserve them. ($74,520 through Sept. 30, 2015)

National CIGs

Four projects with local ties were selected for national Conservation Innovation Grants, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced last week. These include:

  • Women, Food and Agriculture Network to improve soil health across the upper Midwest by increasing soil health literacy among women farmland owners, and supporting them to improve soil health on the land they own and lease. ($525,043)
  • Iowa State University to demonstrate and evaluate cover crop mixtures using emerging technologies on 15 demonstration sites throughout Iowa. ($485,850)
  • Environmental Defense Fund, Inc. to demonstrate and document how NRCS and partners can design and implement a systems approach to agricultural conservation to achieve greater water quality improvements. ($992,022)
  • Conservation Technology Information Center to assess costs and benefits of cover crops with proven tools, from mathematical models to nitrogen rate strip trials, and documentation of pollinators in project fields. ($482,000)