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News Release

USDA Funds Conservation Innovation in Vermont Through Soil Health Demonstration Trial

Amy Overstreet

Vermont Land Trust will lead on-farm soil health demonstration trials

COLCHESTER, Sept. 29, 2020 – USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is awarding $25 million in grants designed to help partners implement and evaluate innovative conservation practices that have demonstrated benefits on farmland. The funding is provided through On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials (On-Farm Trials), a component of the Conservation Innovation Grants program first authorized in the 2018 Farm Bill.

“On-Farm Trials help producers improve the health of their operations while at the same time helping NRCS build data to show the benefit of innovative conservation systems and practices applied on the land,” said VT NRCS State Conservationist Vicky Drew.

The Vermont award will enable Vermont Land Trust (VLT) to work with test farms to plan and implement a four-part Soil Health Management System for each site. The $2,015,167 award will assist with practices including no-till seeding of forage and cover crops; nutrient management via application of compost and bioavailable soil amendments; non-invasive mechanical pasture improvement; and management-intensive rotational grazing of livestock. Outcomes will be evaluated against five control sites and used to produce a predictive pasture health model.

"Time and time again, Vermont has proven itself to be a leader in innovation, particularly in the agricultural sector where our commitment to farmland protection, local food systems, and environmental stewardship sets us apart," said Nick Richardson, President and CEO of the Vermont Land Trust. "This grant helps us pilot new approaches to building soil health that are good for the farmer and for the farmland. It's an honor to have been selected for this highly competitive grant with our partners."

On-Farm Trials awardees work with NRCS and farmers and ranchers to implement innovative practices and systems on their lands that have not yet been widely adopted by producers. Awardees are required to evaluate the conservation and economic outcomes from these practices and systems, giving partners, producers and NRCS critical information to inform conservation work in the future.

Fourteen projects received On-Farm Trials awards, including six awards under the banner of the Soil Health Demonstration Trial. These six projects focus on the adoption and evaluation of soil health management systems and practices. The remaining projects focus on irrigation water management, precision agriculture and a variety of management technologies. Learn more here: On-Farm Trials website.