Skip Navigation

News Release

USDA announces $1.9 million investment in collaborative soil research

Diane Petit

UMass Amherst project among 15 projects selected nationwide

AMHERST, Mass., Sept. 3, 2019 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has announced that the University of Massachusetts, Amherst is among 15 universities selected nationwide to receive a share of $1.9 million in federal funding for projects focused on soil science and soil survey research.

UMass Amherst will develop and apply Portable X-ray Fluorescence (PXRF) technology to quickly assess trace metal concentrations in urban soil. This information will help city planners better understand and address environmental issues associated with potentially hazardous metals in soil.

“It is exciting to further development of PXRF as a quick metal analysis that can be done in the field and save time and money while helping protect New Englanders from heavy metals” says lead UMass researcher Justin Richardson.

This year’s Soil Science Collaborative Research projects were selected from among 32 applications, based on nationally identified needs in communities and landscapes. The information gained from these projects will advance NRCS’ ability to provide scientifically based soil and ecosystem information to help address important natural resources issues facing our nation.

“NRCS is investing in universities across the country to leverage their scientific knowledge and expertise to support our conservation mission,” said NRCS Chief Matthew Lohr. “By engaging a diverse group of scholars through research, we can identify innovative solutions and technological advancements that will increase our contributions to both science and society.”

NRCS will also fund research projects at Alcorn State University, Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, Colorado State University, Kansas State University, New Mexico State University, North Carolina State University, Purdue University, University of Arizona, University of California, University of Tennessee, University of Texas - Rio Grande Valley, University of Wyoming (two projects), and Virginia Institute of Marine Science. A detailed description of the projects is available online.

Now in its 12th year, the Soil Science Collaborative Research program has provided information accumulated from these annual projects, which has helped NRCS develop integrated technical tools and information to assist planners and land managers in predicting and assessing soil health, ecosystem and landscape sustainability and the implementation of sustainable management systems.

“NRCS is a world leader in soil research,” said Dave Hoover, director of the NRCS National Soil Survey Center. “This prioritized investment in science-based tools will develop innovative data sharing and information delivery tools and products to reach multiple stakeholders around the world from underserved audiences to the most technically advanced.”

NRCS accepts proposals once a year. Interested researchers can learn more on the NRCS Soils Research Page.