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Edge of Field Monitoring

edge of field header

Voluntary edge-of-field water quality monitoring enables agricultural producers and scientists to quantify the impacts of conservation work on water quality. Through edge-of-field monitoring, NRCS works with producers and conservation partners, such as universities, agencies, and non-governmental organizations, to measure the amount of nutrients and sediment in water runoff from a field, and compare the improvements under different conservation systems.

monitoring station
  Monitoring stations enable NRCS to measure the amount of nutrients and sediment in water at the edge of farm fiel

NRCS provides technical and financial assistance to farmers in target watersheds who are interested in voluntarily installing monitoring stations. NRCS first introduced edge-of-field monitoring as an opportunity through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) in 2013.

station flume
  This edge-of-field monitoring station has a calibrated flume to measure water flow and loading of nutrients and sediment.

Latest Information

NRCS made available $2 million in fiscal year 2016 to interested producers in 206 watersheds in nine states -- Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, New York, Vermont, and Washington.

See a list of watersheds (PDF, 95 KB)

zoom in on flume
  This calibrated flume used by the U.S. Geological Survey is used to measure water flow and loading of nutrients and sediment.

How the Effort Benefits Producers

Information from monitoring stations helps producers make informed decisions regarding the use of inputs and conservation practices. These decisions, often called adaptive management, help producers increase economic efficiency while maximizing yields. The information also demonstrates the value of conservation efforts by producers.

How the Effort Benefits NRCS

Monitoring stations enable NRCS to measure conservation benefits on water quality right 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 in-stream monitoring, can provide a more thorough picture of improvements within a watershed. This helps NRCS refine and improve conservation efforts. 

NRCS and Edge-of-field Monitoring

Edge-of-field monitoring consists of two conservation practices:

  1. Edge-of-Field Water Quality Monitoring, Data Collection and Evaluation (201)
  2. Edge-of-Field Water Quality Monitoring, System Installation (202).

These practices aim to:

  1. Evaluate conservation system performance;
  2. Validate and calibrate models; and
  3. Assist producers in making the best conservation investments possible.

How the Effort Works

Producers in target watersheds interested in edge-of-field monitoring can apply for financial assistance through EQIP. As part of applying for financial assistance, producers work with their local NRCS conservationist to develop a conservation plan and ensure they’re eligible for participation. The plan identifies resources concerns like water quality and provides a basis for determining the best conservation activities for farmers. Learn more on getting started with NRCS with the Five Steps to Assistance guide.

If selected, NRCS will provide financial assistance to the producer to implement the conservation practices. Before implementation, producers typically will work with the monitoring partner to develop a plan outlining the monitoring question, how equipment will be installed, and how data will be collected and analyzed. Once NRCS approves this plan, the producer and monitoring partner can implement the practices.

The results of data collected will be maintained confidentially for farmers’ use and for use by the conservation partners responsible for monitoring.

More Information

Karma Anderson,