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News Release

USDA Funds Conservation Innovation in Wisconsin and Nationally Through On-Farm Trials of Conservation Systems

Madison, Wis., October 1, 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 Angela Biggs, Wisconsin State Conservationist.

North Carolina State University was awarded $2,003,778 to add new row crop farms to an existing network of producers in an online co-learning environment integrating technology, real-time data flow (aggregation, analytics, and visualization), and decision support tools to promote the use of soil health management principles including carbon storage, nitrogen cycling, and water infiltration and storage. States participating include Wisconsin and the following: VT, PA, MD, NH, OH, VA, TN, NC, SC, GA, FL, AL, MS, AR, IN, SD, KS, NE, OK, TX, IA, and MO.

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 are receiving 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.

Some of this year’s awarded projects include:

  • This project from North Carolina State University adds new row crop farms to an existing network of producers in an online co-learning environment integrating technology, real-time data flow, and decision support tools to promote the use of soil health management principles including carbon storage, nitrogen cycling, and water infiltration and storage.
  • American Farmland Trust will stimulate the adoption of various soil health practices by involving farms in a coast-to-coast Soil Health Demonstration project demonstrating regionally appropriate soil health strategies across three regions covering seven states and six cropping systems. Through soil sampling, in-field assessment, and crop management protocols AFT will track the short-term soil, economic, and social changes occurring as farms transition to full soil health management systems.
  • Michigan State University will work with producers to field-test a low-cost remote sensor monitoring system in corn, soybean, and small vegetable production plots. MSU will assess adoption through surveys conducted in collaboration with partners Michigan Farm Bureau and Michiana Irrigation Association.
  • University of Illinois, in collaboration with Washington State University’s Extension Program and cotton, corn, soy, and wheat producers, plans to deploy a data-intensive crop management system based on on-farm precision experiments. Farmers will use these tools to conduct site-specific, data-based evaluation of the yield costs of reducing nitrogen losses, enabling data-informed input management decisions.
  • The University of Minnesota will implement on-farm corn PNM (precision nitrogen management) and monitoring trials on farms in Minnesota and Indiana in order to assess the agronomic, economic, and environmental benefits of PNM technology in comparison with farmers’ current nitrogen management practices under diverse on-farm conditions.

To learn more, visit the On-Farm Trials website.

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