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2005 Conservation Innovation Grants - Chesapeake Bay Watershed Component Awards


Below is a listing of the fiscal year 2005 Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) Chesapeake Bay watershed component awardees. The information includes the State(s) in which the project will be carried out, the total amount of NRCS funding provided, the project title, and a project summary.

Multi-State Awards

University of Maryland (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia)


Utilizing Conservation Tillage to Minimize Nutrient Losses from Poultry Litter Applied in Grain Production Systems

Most poultry litter is applied as fertilizer to cropland following nitrogen (N)-based nutrient management recommendations.  Under N-based planning, rates for manure applications are typically based on the N requirement of the crops to be grown and the plant-available N content of the manure. A recent economic analysis confirmed that application of broiler litter as a fertilizer to cropland is the highest value use of the litter generated on the Delmarva Peninsula.  The amount of phosphorous (P) applied with the manure usually has not been considered when determining recommended application rates.  In these situations, soil P concentrations can increase rapidly.  Recent research that examined phosphorous in manure-amended Atlantic Coastal Plain soils suggest that the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries are more vulnerable to receiving excess P from surface runoff than from P leaching.  This same research concluded that the primary focus of P management efforts should be minimizing loss through surface runoff pathways coupled with monitoring the degree of P saturation of surface soils.  The purpose of this project is to demonstrate that currently existing conservation tillage technology can be successfully used to partially incorporate poultry litter in reduced tillage grain production systems, preserving surface residue and soil conservation conditions, while reducing N and P losses compared to no-till production systems.  This nutrient management approach will be demonstrated and evaluated on 10-12 farms across the Delmarva Peninsula.


Penn State University (Maryland, Pennsylvania)


Controlling Odor and Nutrient Losses to Surface Runoff, Groundwater and Air with New and Conventional Manure Injection Technologies on No-Till and Sod Soils

Land application of manure is one of the most important conservation issues facing livestock operators in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.  A large body of research has revealed how application of manure to soil can enrich nitrogen in groundwater or phosphorous in surface runoff.  Recent changes in criteria for air quality regulations have made ammonia volatization from livestock manure a priority issue.  Manure can also impact emissions of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide.  An ever-expanding suburban fringe has resulted in a growing number of odor complaints.  These concerns highlight the need to understand environmental and agronomic trade-offs when developing conservation strategies.  Practices that control one conservation concern can exacerbate another.  The purpose of this project is to evaluate the environmental and agronomic effects of several manure application systems (e.g., pressurized injection, surface application followed by tillage incorporation) to identify systems that optimally address multiple priority environmental concerns.


University of Maryland (Maryland, Virginia)


A Program to Improve Dairy Herd Nutrition Using Milk Urea Nitrogen

Milk urea nitrogen (MUN) has been shown to be an excellent predictor of nitrogen excreted directly into dairy cow manure.  MUN can be used to identify herds that are overfed protein, and routine MUN analysis can help producers fine tune feed management and reduce the nitrogen excreted to manure.  Currently, despite the promise of MUN analysis, there remain obstacles to its widespread adoption in the field.  These barriers include milk laboratories’ skepticism of the value of MUN analysis and a lack of understanding of the process and its value on the part of producers.  The ultimate goal of this project is to reduce nitrogen losses to air and water from dairy farms in the Chesapeake Bay region by improving dairy herd nutrition.  MUN analysis will be institutionalized in milk laboratories and diary operations, and an innovative incentive program will be established to encourage producers to reduce nitrogen lost to the environment by decreasing nitrogen feeding.



Alphabetical Listing of Awards by State



University of Delaware (Delaware)


Demonstration of a Complete Approach to Manure Management: Improving Nutrient Use and Creating Value-Added Products for Dairy Farmers

In 1999, the Delaware General Assembly passed a nutrient management law requiring farmers and animal producers to have a nutrient management or animal waste plan that includes best management practices to reduce nutrient losses to the environment.  Many operations in Delaware will require significant upgrades to current manure management practices to meet the requirements of their plans.  The purpose of this project is to demonstrate and encourage the adoption of innovative techniques for managing animal waste and improving the nutrient balance on farms.  The project will utilize innovative manure separation technology combined with improved storage and composting methods.  Developing value-added products from the remaining waste will provide further benefits to producers. 


University of Delaware (Delaware)


Conserving Water and Nitrogen Using New Sensor, Control System, and Information Technology to Improve On-farm Irrigation Scheduling in the Delmarva Peninsula

The Delmarva Peninsula is a primary agricultural region within the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and is likely a major contributor to water quality degradation of both the Chesapeake Bay and the inland bays of Delaware to the east.  Agriculture is an important industry on the peninsula, and irrigated agriculture is a major user of its water resources.  However, competition with and pressure from other land uses and interests is pressuring irrigated agriculture to manage water resources more efficiently in terms of both quantity and environmental impact.  Scientific irrigation scheduling (SIS) can help producers improve irrigation management by systematically integrating local factors into a water management system that forecasts irrigation needs for a specific field.  Research on SIS began more than 50 years ago, but despite its documented benefits, it has not been widely adopted by producers.  Surveys indicate that SIS has had a low adoption rate because producers are hesitant to adopt new practices if they are not easy to implement and understand.  This project will encourage widespread adoption of SIS by integrating SIS technology into the irrigation system making information accessible where the decisions are made, right at the irrigation control point.  The purpose of this project is to demonstrate and evaluate such a system, and to encourage its widespread adoption among agricultural producers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.


Maryland Department of Agriculture (Maryland)


Demonstration of Management Intensive Grazing Systems for Dairy Production

According to the 2002 agricultural census, the number of dairies in the state of Maryland declined 25% since the 1997 census.  As the average herd size of dairies increases, smaller dairies must consider alternative management strategies to remain viable.  One such strategy is management intensive grazing (MIG), designed to improve pastures and forage resources to support the majority of herd nutritional needs.  MIG reduces dependence on off-farm feed inputs and helps achieve more of a nutrient balance or closed system.  The purpose of this project is to demonstrate and encourage the adoption of MIG within dairy production systems as an approach to protect or improve water quality, soil quality, and grazing land health while sustaining productivity and the economic viability of dairies.  Results from forage trials will be used to maximize forage benefits for animal nutrition and nutrient uptake within MIG systems.


Tioga County Soil and Water Conservation District (New York)


Development of a Practical Approach for Reducing Imported Nutrients on Dairy Operation Through Precision Feed Management at a Watershed Scale

New York, as a Chesapeake Bay Watershed state, is developing a Tributary Strategy to meet sediment and nutrient load allocations developed by the Chesapeake Bay Program.  A significant source of nutrients in the Susquehanna River watershed is the 262,000 dairy cattle that inhabit agricultural operations in the region.  The two nutrients of greatest concern are nitrogen and phosphorous.  Nutrient management planning on dairy farms with a focus on nutrient source reduction is vital to the economic sustainability of farms as well as improvement in water quality in the region.  Significant reductions in nutrient imports can only be realized through more precise management at every step along the farm system.  The purpose of this project is to engage dairy producers to implement precision feeding and forage management practices on their operations.  Shifts that occur in both nutrient excretion from individual animals and in whole farm mass balance will be measured.  It is believed that nutrient excretion can be decreased by 15-30 percent and whole farm mass balance by 30-40 percent on many dairy farms in this region.


Brian Brake (Pennsylvania)


Planting Alternative Dairy Forages

The deleterious impacts of nutrient and sediment runoff on the water quality of the Chesapeake Bay are well documented.  Traditional row crop production practices may result in significant amounts of nutrient runoff and soil erosion from farm fields.  Many dairy producers, however, depend on the high energy content and cost-effectiveness of corn silage in their dairy feed to keep their business profitable.  A potential solution to this dilemma is the use of an alternative dairy forage, cup plant.  Cup plant has a number of characteristics that make it an attractive alternative to corn silage.  High seeding rates and low insect and disease pressure reduce pesticide and herbicide use.  Plant densities help reduce soil erosion.  Nutrient applications can be timed properly with plant uptake.  The purpose of this project is to demonstrate and encourage the widespread adoption of alternative dairy forages on farms in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.


Chesapeake Bay Foundation (Pennsylvania)


Precision Dairy Feeding to Reduce Nutrient Pollution in Pennsylvania's Waters and the Chesapeake Bay

Almost 4,000 miles of Pennsylvania streams are impaired by agricultural non-point source pollution, primarily due to excessive loadings of sediment and nutrients, predominantly from livestock manure.  The scientific body of evidence accumulated by the efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay has clearly established the need to resolve this manure nutrient overload.  Precision dairy feeding has been identified as a critical component of Pennsylvania’s strategy to reduce non-point agricultural water pollution.  The practice is cited for widespread implementation in the State’s Tributary Strategy and is identified as a key cost effective strategy in the Chesapeake Bay Commission’s publication, Cost Effective Strategies for the Bay, published in December 2004.  Precision feeding reduces nitrogen and phosphorus inputs to the levels required to maintain optimum production, resulting in 20-40% reductions in the nutrient content of manure.  Through this project, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and its partners will work with Pennsylvania dairy producers to bring about significant changes in the dairy industry’s standard feeding practices and subsequently improve water quality. 


Chester County Conservation District (Pennsylvania)


Horse Drawn No-Till Planter for Plain-Sect Farmers

In February 2005, Chesapeake Bay Tributary Strategies were written and adopted by the Chester County Conservation District and Board of Directors.  A significant challenge for this area is sedimentation of water bodies due to the widespread use of intensive tillage methods.  The purpose of this project is to encourage the adoption of conservation tillage practices among Plain Sect producers through demonstration and evaluation of a horse drawn no-till corn planter.  The planter will be provided free of charge to Plain Sect (primarily Amish) farmers in the Octoraro, Elks, and North East watersheds.  Widespread adoption of conservation tillage is an important component of the tributary strategies for this area.


Mifflin County Conservation District (Pennsylvania)


Environmentally Sensitive Maintenance (ESM) on Ag Access Roads to Eliminate Nutrient & Sediment Pollution in the Kishacoquillas Valley Watershed

Extensive studies of low traffic volume roads have identified unpaved road corridors as a major source of sediment pollution to nearby streams.  On farms and in agricultural settings, unpaved lanes and access roads have the same potential as any public dirt and gravel roadway to produce, mobilize and transport sediment.  These unpaved farm roadways are far more likely, however, to carry nutrients, particularly nitrogen and phosphorous, as well as sediment, and far less likely to receive routine maintenance.  Pennsylvania’s Chesapeake Bay Tributary Strategy identifies dirt and gravel road improvements as a BMP to reduce nutrient and sediment loadings.  The purpose of this project is to initiate the widespread adoption of environmentally sensitive maintenance (ESM) erosion control and reduce sediment/nutrient pollution from private farm lanes and field access roads in the Kishacoquillas Valley watershed in Pennsylvania. 


Virginia Tech University (Virginia)


Precision Feeding to Reduce Nutrient Losses from Virginia Dairy Farms

Agriculture has been identified as the leading source of nonpoint source water pollution in Virginia, responsible for over 60% of the nonpoint nitrogen (N) and phosphorous( P) loads.  The Shenandoah River basin combines intensive animal agriculture and a location in the Chesapeake Bay drainage basin with a geophysical structure that makes it vulnerable to ground and surface water contamination.  The increasing imbalance in nutrients applied to land and nutrient requirements for crop growth is due largely to the escalation in imported feeds.  About 75-85% of the N and P consumed by livestock is excreted, so any increase in nutrient importation directly increases the amount of nutrients in land applied manure.  The purpose of this project is to reduce N and P pollution in the Chesapeake Bay watershed through implementation of an innovative incentive program and demonstration of advanced precision feeding and feed management strategies.