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CIG Project Descriptions

Vermont State CIG Projects for 2017

Applying Gypsum as a Soil Amendment to Reduce Available Phosphorus on Fields with High Soil Test Phosphorus Levels

Accumulated high phosphorus levels in crop fields from legacy applications of manure and fertilizer limit farmer options for additional nutrient applications and threatens water quality. Gypsum application to field soils has been identified as a method to bind phosphorus and prevent off-site losses. The application of gypsum and other product will be demonstrated and evaluated in a research trial to evaluate the environmental effectiveness and usability of this practice on local Vermont farms, and to inform other farmers about the opportunities for EQIP program incentives and probability of success of this practice. (University of Vermont, $53,319, 24 months – March 2020).  Read the final report here.

Development of Phosphorus Mass Balances on Vermont Farms

Current nutrient management planning for Vermont farms does not sufficiently address the importation and subsequent loading of phosphorus (P) on the landscape. The main objective of the project is to gain a better understanding of how nutrients move onto, within, and away from Vermont farms. This will be accomplished using a mass balance tool to account for all imports and exports of nutrients on six farms. P in runoff from farms could be significantly reduced by balancing phosphorus imports and exports. An interim practice standard for P balance will be developed for NRCS along with data on costs for using the tool. (University of Vermont, $40,144, 24 months – June 2020). Read the final report here.

Economic Analysis of Cover Crops & Reduced Tillage Systems in Vermont

Vermont farmers are implementing cover cropping and reduced or no-till practices on an increasing number of acres because of their benefits to soil and water quality. Many producers have questions about the economics of these practices which need to be answered. The main objective of the project is to develop standard practices and tools to evaluate the economic impacts of cover crops and reduced/no-till at the farm level. These tools will add technical assistance resources focused on these emerging practices to accompany existing agronomic and environmental information that is available. These resources will be targeted to farmers and technical service providers. (University of Vermont, $74,987, 24 months – March 2020). View a UVM case study fact sheet highlighting CIG findings here. You  can read the final report here.

Innovative Tools to Improve Nutrient and Financial Accounting of Conservation Practices on Vermont Farms

Farmers need easy to use decision making tools to assist them with decision making for the adoption and implementation of conservation practices to help maintain and improve water quality. The objective of this project is to give farmers the ability to assess whole farm nutrient balances and economic benefits of their farming systems. This will be accomplished by integrating mass nutrient balance and conservation economic calculators into goCrop, a state-of-the-art web and mobile nutrient management application.  (University of Vermont, $74,984, 24 months – September 2019).  Read the final report here.

Innovative Dairy Manure Nutrient Recovery Application for Water Quality Improvement and Environmental Conservation

The project will identify and evaluate the most promising composition of a fertilizer from a newly developed nutrient recovery system that recovers nutrients from dairy manure.  Field trials will be conducted using the fertilizer to determine the best timing and rates for agronomic purposes, the impacts on soil health and on the environment.  (GSR Solutions, INC., $40,144, 18 months - August 2020) Read the final report and view fact sheets here.

Vermont State CIG Projects for 2016

Revision of the Vermont Phosphorus Index for Improved Nutrient Management and Water Quality

This award is for UVM to determine the revisions needed to the current version of the Vermont Phosphorus Index, and to update the Index and accompanying documentation accordingly.  (University of Vermont, $74,984, 24 months - June 2017). You can learn more about the phosphorus index here


Vermont State CIG Projects for 2015

Pilot Project Using Existing LiDAR to Identify and Map Forest Roads, Trails, and Log Landings on Private Forests in Vermont 

The purpose of this project is to use high resolution LiDAR data to identify the locations of unmapped forest roads, including logging roads, skid trails, and log landings. Once mapped, these features will permit Basin-wide analysis of pollution inputs emanating from disturbed forestlands in the Lake Champlain Basin. The identified forest road features will undergo an analysis to determine the extent to which they are eroding and pinpoint locations of concern for sediment delivery to surface waters. The LiDAR analysis will serve as a pilot project to assess the efficacy of utilizing LiDAR data to accurately map forest roads and road erosion. It will inform future studies in different locations and can guide the development of lower impact logging practices into the future. (Bear Creek Environmental, LLC, $30,329, 24 months – September 2017). Read the final report here. 

Soap Bubble Insulation: A New Approach to Energy Conservation in Northern Greenhouses

The purpose of this project is to develop an innovative, “grower-friendly” soap bubble insulation system to reduce energy use in greenhouses in Vermont. The specific objectives are: 1. Install redesigned components of the bubble insulation system and evaluate maintenance needs and energy savings; 2) Conduct cost-benefit analyses for installation and operation of the improved bubble insulation system. It continues the efforts partially funded through two prior CIGs. This represents one of the most innovative technologies available for improving energy efficiency in greenhouses. An improved system suitable for installation in Vermont greenhouses will be shared with other greenhouse growers through demonstration and outreach activities. (University of Vermont, $74,996, 24 months – September 2018). Read the final report here. 

Use of Water Treatment Residuals to Reduce Phosphorus Availability in Agricultural Soils in Vermont

One potential practice to help reduce the risk of phosphorus movement from agricultural fields to surface waters is to apply alum-based water treatment residuals (WTRs) to high phosphorus soils. Field trials have demonstrated that WTRs are effective in reducing plant-available phosphorus levels in high phosphorus agricultural soils.  The purpose of this study is to further refine application rates of WTRs that can effectively reduce phosphorus levels in agricultural soils without negatively impacting soil fertility and crop yield and health. This study will also investigate changes to trace metals content of soils to which high rates of WTRs have been applied, and to focus applications on sensitive areas, at the interface between buffer areas and tillable acreage, as opposed to applying WTRs field-wide. (Resource Management, Inc., $61,264, 30 months – March 2018). Read the final report here. 


Vermont State CIG Projects for 2014

Tile Drainage Phosphorous Removal System in the Rock River Watershed

The purpose of this project is to monitor and measure water flow and total and dissolved phosphorous and nitrogen concentrations coming out of drainage tiles on a farm in the Lake Champlain Basin where two Phosphorus Removal Systems have been installed. The project will use two different filtering medias, or one filtering media on two tile lines with different phosphorus concentrations, over a period of two years. Under the study design paired monitoring systems will be installed above and below each of the media filtering systems in order to quantify the performance.  Ideally, the flow coming out of a single drain would be split or two separate drains on fields on the same landscape would be monitored.  In either case, the upstream/downstream monitoring design will allow the quantification of the nutrient removal of the systems, and determine if there are reductions in nutrient concentrations that are attributable to the phosphorus removal systems. (Friends of Northern Lake Champlain, $50,000, 36 months – September 2017). Read the final report here. 


Vermont State CIG Projects for 2013

Better Cover Crop Mixes in Vermont

The purpose of this project is to show that cover crop mixes are a viable alternative to fall plowing in the Champlain Valley and can improve soil health, protect water quality and increase crop yields on farms. A mixture of plant species will enhance biomass production, nitrogen fixation, deep taproot penetration and soil nutrient scavenging. Demonstration trials with different methods and timing of establishing cover crops will be used to show other farmers alternative cover crop production practices that they can adopt on their own farms. Farmers in the Champlain Valley will be more receptive to cover cropping if these mixes can be shown to improve overall soil health and increase crop yields in the long run. (University of Vermont, $70,566, 36 months – September 2016). Read the final report here. 

Development of a Web-based APEX Tool for Optimizing Best Management Practices and Conservation Planning on Vermont Farms

The APEX model is a powerful tool for conservation planners, providing valuable, real time information on the effectiveness of different BMP scenarios for specific agricultural fields. This project will evaluate the performance of the APEX model in simulating agronomic systems and conservation practices in Vermont, and result in a user friendly web-based APEX conservation planning tool capable of simulating and comparing the environmental benefits of a wide range of best management practices across the state of Vermont. Using the APEX model as the basis for land management decisions will bring a scientifically defensible and transparent approach to the process, improving the public acceptance and understanding of the outcomes.(Stone Environmental, Inc., $74,750, 24 months - September 2015). Read the final report here. 

Soil Health Demonstration Farm on Clay Soil

The goal of this project is to demonstrate to farmers that reduced tillage systems, including vertical tillage, zone tillage and no-till systems, are viable options on heavy clay soil in the Champlain Valley. The development of a working demonstration farm and documentation of these systems will be implemented on soils that are typically plowed in the fall after crop harvest leaving the soil exposed to sediment and nutrient losses through the winter. Cover crops will be planted for over-wintering of the soil. This project will show other farmers in Vermont that these practices can improve soil health for increased farm productivity. (University of Vermont, $75,000, 36 months – September 2016). Read the final report here. 


Vermont State CIG Projects for 2012

Innovative Technologies for Energy Conservation in Vermont Greenhouses

The purpose of this project is to continue improvements to the design of key components of a greenhouse bubble insulation system and implement improvements in a demonstration greenhouse. This represents one of the most innovative technologies available for improving energy efficiency in greenhouses. A system suitable for installation in Vermont greenhouses will be shared with other greenhouse growers through demonstration and outreach activities that show the value of energy conservation. (University of Vermont, $16,398, 24 months – September 2014). Read the final report here. 

Champlain Valley Farmer Coalition for Improved Water Quality

The purpose of this project is to stimulate the development and adoption of innovative agricultural conservation approaches and technologies through the development of a watershed based farmer conservation group in Addison, Chittenden, and Rutland Counties. The Champlain Valley Farmer Coalition will promote on-farm agricultural practices that improve water quality in Lake Champlain. The farmer group will demonstrate to other farmers and explain to the public and legislators about successful conservation practices that help to improve the environment while maintaining an active working landscape and viable livestock agriculture industry in Vermont. (University of Vermont, $30,436, 30 months – March 2015). Read the final report here. 

Using Grass-Based Livestock Farms to Demonstrate Regenerative Agriculture

The goal of this project is to demonstrate and to educate livestock farmers and service providers regarding techniques used by grass-based farming innovators to improve soil and water quality, renew marginally productive lands, increase forage production, support wildlife, and encourage transition to environmentally beneficial methods of livestock production. Outreach will include peer to peer learning, and use of electronic and social media to share information. An economic analysis of the transition from conventional to pasture grazing system (cash flow plus quality of life, etc.), energy savings analyses, and life cycle assessments are part of the plan of work. (University of Vermont, $72,786, 36 months – September 2015) Read the final report here. 

Development of an Agricultural Certainty Program in Vermont

This award is to develop a coordinated program among various agricultural partners that supports agricultural water quality improvements while providing a level of “certainty” to agricultural producers that engage in water quality improvement projects. This program will create a framework that uses indicators of progress as the key measurement unit and where applicable nutrient and/or sediment reduction measures. This effort will entail an assessment of the various conservation programs and staff resources from agricultural organizations in order to improve their ability to help establish and implement goals and progressive measures. Incorporating the on-going efforts of multiple partners into a process will support the restoration of Lake Champlain and other TMDL-based nutrient pollution reduction efforts in Vermont. (Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, & Markets, $75,000, 40 months – January 2016)


Vermont State CIG Projects for 2011

Innovative Technologies for Energy Conservation in Vermont Greenhouses

The purpose of this project is to improve the design of key components of a greenhouse bubble insulation system and implement improvements in a demonstration greenhouse. This represents one of the most innovative technologies available for improving energy efficiency in greenhouses. A system suitable for installation in Vermont greenhouses will be shared with other greenhouse growers through demonstration and outreach activities that show the value of energy conservation. (University of Vermont, $11,530, 12 months – August 2013). Read the final report here. 

Digging Deeper: Improving the Implementation of Nutrient Management Practices in Vermont

The goal of this project is to develop, evaluate, and verify the effectiveness of innovative nutrient management implementation strategies on Vermont farms that will help decrease agricultural nonpoint source nutrient pollution. The project will further refine and develop new education tools and strategies to broaden the adoption and effectiveness of nutrient management planning and implementation on Vermont farms. The results of this effort will be available for use by farmers, agricultural professionals, and natural resource organizations. (University of Vermont, $63,422, 36 months – September 2014). Read the final report here. 

Fuel from the Field to the Flue: Grass Pellet Heating Equipment Combustion Optimization Project

This project will evaluate two different types of grass pellet heating equipment, and identify the most suitable species of grass fuel. The combustion performance of the equipment will be evaluated and adjusted to optimize their efficiency. Feedback will be given to the manufacturers to incorporate the modifications into production, as well as made public so Vermont consumers could purchase similar heating equipment that will burn grass pellets more reliably and efficiently. Documentation will also be made available to assist farmers in the selection of grass species to produce the optimal fuel. (Meach Cove Farm Trust, $73,400, 48 months – September 2015). Read the final report here. 


Vermont State CIG Projects for 2010 

Increasing Livestock Production for Vermont Markets by Improving and Reclaiming Marginal Pasture

This project will increase farmers’ access to land for livestock production by reclaiming marginal and existing grazed pasture through the biological control of weeds. The practice has already been successfully used in California, Colorado and Montana. Farmers in Vermont will be able to train livestock to act as biological controls of weeds, creating a sustainable and valuable tool to reduce the negative impacts of weeds on livestock production, increase farm profitability, and improve Vermont’s working landscapes. This project will demonstrate and monitor the effectiveness of the biological control of weeds in Vermont and the northeast, and share information on this practice as well as farmers’ experiences. (University of Vermont Center for Sustainable Agriculture, $69,153, 36 months – September 2013). Read the final report here. 

Vermont State CIG Projects for 2009

White River Watershed Landscape Auction

The project will test a new market-based payment mechanism known as a Landscape Auction within the White River and Northern Forest landscape of Vermont. This form of market-based incentive has been tried in the Netherlands and other places in the world with success. Through this approach private capital will be raised to protect watershed values of private agricultural or forested working lands for at least ten years. The project seeks to test the application of this approach as one more ‘tool’ to reduce parcelization and fragmentation of forest and agricultural working lands while conserving clean water, fish and wildlife habitat, open space and other ecosystem services. This tool may be particularly useful in places where there is an immediate threat to these values, but private landowners are not amenable to long-term easements. (White River Partnership, $12,000, 15 months -  December 2010). Read the final report here. 

Anaerobic Digester Effluent Treatment to Reduce Agricultural Atmospheric Emissions

Anaerobic digesters can provide dairy farms with important benefits, but this processing of manure increases its level of ammonium - a greenhouse gas (GHG) that can be lost to the atmosphere rapidly. This project focuses on evaluating the potential of a low-cost digester effluent treatment system to shape best management practices for manure and nutrient management. This system supports the nitrification of ammonium resulting in a liquid that can be applied directly to crops during the growing season. The effectiveness of the Avatar aerobic tricking filter technology in converting ammonium to nitrate will be evaluated. Field tests will be conducted on a small Vermont dairy farm to evaluate a method of weekly application of the aerobically treated liquid digester effluent onto croplands throughout the growing season. Crop yields may be improved while reducing nutrient loss due to run-off and GHG emissions. (Avatar Energy Vermont, $29,449, 36 months – August 2012). Read the final report here. 

Pellet Fired Boiler for Multiple Greenhouses

The primary goals of this project are to construct a greenhouse range that will promote a high ratio of productivity to energy consumption, and to increase the reliance of the farm on locally produced renewable fuels. A modern pellet fired biomass boiler will heat two innovative greenhouses for organic vegetable and fruit production. The structures will utilize peak vents for passive ventilation to address cooling and dehumidifying needs. The result of this project will be a highly efficient greenhouse range, in regards to both energy consumption and labor needs that will serve as a model for future projects on farms throughout Vermont. The farm will be able to utilize some of its own fuel production, as well as bring in biomass fuel from a local pellet producer. (Woods Market Garden, $40,000, 36 months – August 2012). Read the final report here. 

Promoting Zone Tillage among Commercial Vegetable Growers in Vermont

This project will demonstrate the benefits of zone tillage to commercial vegetable growers in Vermont, and encourage the adoption of this soil-improving practice. Adoption of this conservation practice has the potential to reduce soil compaction, lessen erosion, improve crop yields, and reduce fuel costs. Participating farmers will have access to the necessary equipment to try zone tillage on their fields so they can document the effect of zone tillage on soil heath and crop yields. A number of field demonstrations will be held with zone tillage equipment and farmers who use this innovative agricultural practice will answer questions from other growers who are considering zone tillage. The results of the project will be disseminated through grower publications and meetings. It is expected that many of the participating growers adopt zone tillage on an ongoing basis.
(University of Vermont Extension, $42,566, 36 months – August 2012). Read the final report here. 

Optimizing the Greenhouse Gas Storage Capacity and Productivity of Degraded Forest Lands

This project will build upon the successful market approach of carbon finance used in other regions and apply it to a degraded forest land in northeast Vermont. It will define rehabilitative silvicultural prescriptions that optimize carbon storage and productivity, identify the ability of overharvested forests to generate carbon credits under different forest project protocols, assess the actual market interest in such projects, and determine the compatibility of carbon market participation with existing landowner incentive programs. This effort will culminate in the creation of Vermont’s first market ready forest-based carbon offsets project. A case study, which illuminates the challenges and opportunities associated with carbon market participation, will be part of the project outreach. (Conservation Collaboratives, $43,973, 38 months – October 2012). Read the final report here. 

Increasing Carbon Sequestration in Vermont Pastures

Vermont’s grass-based livestock farmers have adopted rotational grazing pastures to improve their sustainability in the face of huge challenges posed by uncertain energy costs and market fluctuations. As pastures mature, soil compaction from machinery and herd hoof traffic reduces forage yields and carbon sequestration. The project will demonstrate the implementation of promising biological and/or mechanical pasture improvement methods to increase soil carbon sequestration and reduce soil compaction, improving production while reducing dairy farm greenhouse gas (GHG) footprints. It will explain the efficacy of these practices and the practicalities of their adoption through on-farm workshops and other outreach efforts. (University of Vermont Center for Sustainable Agriculture, $74,881, 48 months – August 2013). Read the final report here. 

Designing a Sustainable Corn Silage Cropping System for Vermont

The purpose of this project is to demonstrate and evaluate the feasibility of a reduced impact corn silage cropping system in order to encourage its adoption in Vermont. The project will compare conventional tillage to reduced tillage systems that incorporate the use of cover crops and manure injection using specialized equipment in the Missisquoi Bay and St. Albans Bay watersheds. Conservation practices such as these reduce erosion and runoff of nutrients and sediment from agricultural fields. Economic costs, soil health, soil erosion and crop yields will be evaluated. On-farm workshops held on demonstration farms are part of the outreach effort. (University of Vermont Extension, $74,727, 36 months – August 2012). Read the final report here.