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2020 National Competition Award Summaries

Air Quality

Practical Farmers of Iowa
NRCS Award: $1,131,213
Small grains unlock potential to keep nitrogen in crops and out of air and water: market-based innovations to optimize fertilizer and manure management in extended rotations
States: IA; MN; WI; NE; IL
Practical Farmers of Iowa will increase the adoption of fertilizer and manure management practices that result in lower greenhouse gas emissions with small grains by piloting innovative cost-share and market-based mechanisms with grain and animal protein supply chain partners (including McDonalds, Oatly, PepsiCo and Starbucks).

Texas A&M AgriLife Research
NRCS Award: $151,500
Demonstration of management practices and technologies to suppress ammonia emissions from livestock facilities along Colorado’s front range
States: TX; CO
Texas A&M will validate and demonstrate targeted management practices for confined livestock operations to reduce particulate matter and ammonia emissions in certain weather conditions along the front range of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains.

University of Minnesota
NRCS Award: $294,820
Demonstration of a microbial electrochemical system to mitigate hydrogen sulfide emission from dairy manure pits
States: MN
The University of Minnesota will develop an economically feasible system that does not require pre- or post- treatment and will mitigate the highly toxic and odorous hydrogen sulfide gas released from pit manure storages.

Indian Land Tenure Foundation
NRCS Award: $513,915
Tribal lands carbon and co-benefits tool
States: CO; AZ; CO; KS; NE; NM; OK ;TX
Indian Land Tenure Foundation will develop and pilot an operational web-based tool to assess and quantify the benefits of carbon sequestration produced through ecosystem conservation and restoration activities on tribal lands.

Energy Conservation

Ohio State University
NRCS Award: $400,111
Validating energy conservation of advanced livestock ventilation systems with real-time energy data
States: OH; KY
Ohio State will establish benchmark energy consumption for livestock confinement buildings by using high-efficiency direct drive motors and optimal control strategies and assessing the economic impact of implementing these practices in an eight-state area.

Rid-All Foundation, Inc.
NRCS Award: $888,413
Equity-based regenerative agriculture through carbon capture and utilization technology: The Community Carboneers Collaborative
States: OH; MI; NM
The Rid-All Foundation will improve the resiliency of agricultural producers in historically underserved communities in urban and remote rural areas by increasing energy independence and developing soil conditioning byproducts to support cropping systems and aquaculture operations. The project will pilot bioenergy/biochar systems at four locations throughout the US by working with a consortium of organizations already engaged in community agricultural sustainability development.

American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy
NRCS Award: $595,026
Data-driven market transformation for controlled environment agriculture
States: CO; IL; MA; OR; PA; WA
The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy will characterize key performance indicators, baseline data, and facility level benchmarking for controlled environmental agricultural facilities. The project will develop a comprehensive suite of data tools, coupled with a market intervention strategy to address barriers to energy conservation, adoption of energy-efficient technologies, access to energy use data, and best practices.

Water Quality

University of Illinois
NRCS Award: $1,112,730
Innovating through barriers for bioreactors and saturated buffers
States: IL; IA; MN
The University of Illinois will design and evaluate bioreactors and saturated buffers that address variable flow, increase the volume of water treated, look at how site factors may impact performance, and test innovative nitrogen monitoring methods that could lead to market-based water quality solutions.

Newtrient, LLC
NRCS Award: $697,203
Environmental and economic benefits of dairy manure treatment technologies and practices for improving water quality
States: IL
Over the past two years, Newtrient has worked with partners to develop and test a specific protocol for evaluating dairy manure treatment technology performance. This project will apply this protocol to evaluate 15 technologies and practices for improving water quality, efficiently utilizing manure, and identifying new opportunities for marketable products in various regions.

Mississippi State University
NRCS Award: $1,480,526
Combining cover crops with irrigation water management technologies to economically reduce pollutant loss from farm fields, transport of agrochemicals in streams, and aquifer decline
States: AR; LA; MS; MO
Mississippi State University will improve water quality and quantity by increasing the adoption of a novel production system based on scheduling and delivering water to cover crop production systems using state-of-the-art technologies.

First Nations Development Institute
NRCS Award: $241,581
Increasing native producer and community access to quality water resources
States: AZ; NM
First Nations Institute will work with two Native American organizations, taking a community-focused approach to empower Native American agricultural producers both individually and collectively to create, implement, and sustain conservation strategies that will address water quality and watershed management issues. It will develop conservation planning training and build capacity to address watershed issues.

Arkansas Land and Community Development Corporation
NRCS Award: $176,912
Innovative conservation approaches and technologies for alternative crops
States: AR
Arkansas Land and Community Development Corporation will introduce historically underserved vegetable growers in East Central Arkansas to using drones for pest control management. Training producers in using high resolution camera drones that can help with early stage detection of pest infestations will allow for targeted pesticide application leading to less chemical use.

Michigan State University
NRCS Award: $614,347
Accelerating the adoption of saturated buffers using an educational decision-support tool
States: MI; IA
Michigan State University will develop an educational decision-support tool for accelerating the adoption of saturated buffers by increasing knowledge of the value of this practice. This tool will inform farm-level siting and optimize the design of saturated buffers for efficient nitrate removal from subsurface drainage water.

Mississippi State University
NRCS Award: $318,714
Demonstrating phosphorus adsorbance in a slag/biochar bioreactor design for the treatment of stormwater runoff
States: MS
Mississippi State University will use biochar for the purpose of mitigating agricultural nutrient runoff at the field-scale and combine the biochar technology with slag, a known phosphorus-grabber, to improve existing conservation practices and demonstrate their combined effectiveness to improve management of nutrients.

Texas A&M AgriLife Research
NRCS Award: $735,239
Biocarbon-enhanced dairy manure management demonstration for enhanced water quality
States: TX
Texas A&M will develop and demonstrate a biochar-assisted phytoremediation system for enhancing water quality during dairy manure application in three Texas counties. It will improve knowledge of field-applied calcium hydroxide-coated biochar and how, when used in conjunction with plants, it can help enhance water quality during dairy manure application.

North Carolina State University
NRCS Award: $752,518
Using 3-D characterization and mapping of cover crops and weeds to fight herbicide resistant weeds and avoid reverting back to tillage-based weed control
States: IA; NC; TX
North Carolina State University will apply a 3D imaging system to increase the adoption of cover crops and provide site-specific weed control tactics to substantially reduce tillage. The 3D imaging system will map and quantify cover crops and weeds and will inform site-specific management of weed escapes, protecting soil and water quality through improved management of herbicide-resistant weeds.

Water Reuse

White River Regional Irrigation Water Distribution District
NRCS Award: $700,000
Using a regional ag data network to accelerate water reuse and water quality considerations in irrigation systems
States: AR
Use of advanced technology for irrigation scheduling has demonstrated reduced water use with proper scheduling. However, data that tracks the volume of runoff that can be captured and reused is limited. Whiteriver Regional Irrigation proposes to determine the volume of runoff that is captured in tail-water systems and irrigation storage reservoirs and the volume and quality of water reused for incorporation into Irrigation Water Management plans.

Louisiana State University Agricultural Center
NRCS Award: $595,172
A comprehensive demonstration of using agricultural tailwater irrigation for southern crop production
States: LA
The project focuses on the recycling of tailwater using agricultural return-flows. Louisiana State University will develop irrigation strategies that include constructed ponds and groundwater that decrease the salinity and suspended solids levels in tailwater for agricultural use.

Wildlife Habitat

Heart of the Rockies
NRCS Award: $886,255
Landowner collaborative strategies for nonlethal predator control
States: AZ; CA; ID; MT; NM; OR; WA
Heart of the Rockies will accelerate innovation by developing a community of practice to implement nonlethal predator control techniques across diverse social and ecological contexts. Through a diverse partnership, the project will evaluate the effectiveness of techniques across occupied grizzly bear and wolf habitat, examining potential for conservation practices and developing collaborative strategies and producer guidelines for nonlethal predator control.

Friends of the Teton River, Inc.
NRCS Award: $468,388
Teton Basin aquifer recharge demonstration: Expanding innovative irrigation management
States: ID; WY
Friends of the Teton River will demonstrate and evaluate a stakeholder-driven, science-based approach to water management in Southeastern Idaho that uses market forces to incentivize early season aquifer recharge. Intended benefits will be an extended local irrigation season, enhanced farm productivity, and improved habitat and water quality for critical fish and wildlife species.

Playa Lakes Joint Venture
NRCS Award: $514,560
Tree-age: A decision support tool to target brush management and other wildlife practices to benefit rangeland management
States: CO; AZ; CO; KS; NE; NM; OK; TX
Playa Lakes Joint Venture will build an online decision support tool to estimate effects of wildlife programs and practices on populations of grassland birds. The innovative, interactive tool will be spatially explicit, integrate across breeding and non-breeding seasons, potentially integrate across international borders, and build on years of conservation planning and delivery experience.

Texas A&M AgriLife Research
NRCS Award: $694,167
Automated wildlife monitoring: Enabling producers to measure their conservation impacts
States: TX; CA; WA; AZ
Texas A&M will use innovative integration of camera, image, and sensor technology to create a tool to monitor wildlife typically difficult to observe. Dramatic images, fine-scale data, ArcGIS compatibility, and an accessible web interface will empower producers and scientists to better monitor wildlife on agricultural land, creating a low-cost monitoring system with the potential to measure the positive effects of conservation measures.

Brigham Young University
NRCS Award: $519,150
Helping producers improve wildlife habitat with innovative seed coating technologies
States: UT
Seeding degraded areas to restore wildlife habitat can often end in failure in dryland systems. Brigham Young University will test seed coatings to protect seeds from fungus and herbicides to support delayed emergence for successful reseeding of native species on burned or herbicide-treated rangelands formerly degraded by invasive grasses. Specifically, the project will address the restoration of cheatgrass infested areas using seed coatings, herbicides and innovative planting techniques.

Texas Water Trade
NRCS Award: $194,500
Protecting and restoring flow in the Pecos River Basin
States; TX; NM
Texas Water Trade will test the marketability of various contract structures with agricultural producers in the Pecos River Basin to develop a replicable, effective and voluntary legal mechanism to provide reliable flows in critical aquatic and riparian habitat. They will test the feasibility of voluntary water savings while maintaining existing water rights through the contribution of unused water to the maintenance of stream flow and aquatic habitat.

For more information about the CIG program, visit the CIG website.