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Conservation Technical Assistance

Conservation Technical Assistance - 2009

Map showing conservation practices applied in New Jersey in 2009Conservation Technical Assistance (CTA) Program is the foundation of the on-the-ground conservation assistance that NRCS provides to customers. Through CTA, NRCS helps people voluntarily conserve, improve and sustain natural resources on their land. Our primary partners in delivering conservation technical assistance are the fifteen Soil Conservation Districts and the NJ Association of Conservation Districts. Other key partners include the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, Rutgers University, and other State and Federal Agencies.

In FY2009, NRCS:

  • Helped New Jersey land mangers apply over 2,000 conservation practices throughout the state to improve soil quality, water quality and other resource concerns.
  • Worked with Rutgers Cooperative Extension service to develop principles relating to soil health.
  • Prepared materials and staffed 2009 NJ Envirothon (high school environmental competition) with over 200 high school students participating.
  • Presented a case study "Revegetating a Brownfield Site” at a Delaware Estuary Science Workshop in Cape May County to 150 people.
  • Developed standardized certification criteria for conservation planners in New Jersey. Conservation Planner Certification in New Jersey now includes strict education requirements and ongoing training for employees and district personnel.

Employee Training

NRCS employees participated in training on some new, high-tech methods of managing irrigation water. The goal is to conserve water while using the best methods to measure soil moisture and plant stress.

Employees visited a vineyard, a grain operation, and a vegetable operation to learn about the irrigation water management methods that were used at each operation, and the challenges and limitations of the different methods used.

NRCS employees receive training at farm

Partnership with Rutgers on Soil Health Promotion

soilIn 2009, a series of meetings were held with Rutgers Cooperative Extension and NRCS field staff. The goal for the meetings was to determine common ground and philosophical differences relating to soil health between the two primary groups of professionals in NJ that provide on-farm technical assistance.

Meetings were held in Centerton and Pittstown. Many positive actions were developed to increase farmer understanding and incentives to try soil health promoting practices. Innovative uses for cover crops and organic wastes such as municipally collected leaves were discussed. Changes in tillage practices were identified and evaluated.

roller crimperThe most significant development was the use of a cover crop roller-crimper on organic grain research plots at the Centerton Rutgers Agricultural Research and Extension Center. The roller crimper was acquired by NRCS in 2009. It is a tractor-drawn implement that will break and flatten a mature cover crop to produce a soil and moisture conserving surface mulch. The plots were planted to a rye cover crop, with the organic cash grain no-tilled into the rolled cover.

Initial results for no-till organic grain production using the cover-roller system are encouraging. The system will be used again in 2010. A farmer field day is planned for 2010 or 2011 at the Centerton facility to show the system and promote other soil health practices.