USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service recently awarded a third Conservation Innovation Grant to the Iowa Soybean Association's On-Farm Network.
The new grant, totaling $750,000, will be used to continue On-Farm Network strip trial agronomic studies in Iowa. And, at the same time, it will extend this work into the Upper Chesapeake Bay through partnerships with university researchers and environmental protection groups in Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland.
The ISA proposal is one of 66 that were funded this year through Conservation Innovation Grants, totaling about $24 million, says Mick Lane, research communications director for ISA in Des Moines. The project will study nutrient management practices in crop production. Project researchers and cooperating farmers will use replicated strip trials, global positioning systems, and yield monitors to examine precision farming practices and methods.
Practices tested on farmers' farms
That includes reduced application rates, different timing of applications and trying different application methods of commercial fertilizers and livestock manure. "Our purpose is to help farmers fine-tune management, maintain or increase yields, and reduce losses into the environment while increasing production efficiencies,' says Lane. "The project is slated to begin in the 2007 growing season."
The Conservation Innovation Grant initiative is part of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, funded for fiscal 2007. NRCS uses CIG to fund pilot projects and conservation field trials that can last from one to three years.
ISA has used previous CIG funding, which must be matched dollar for dollar with additional funding, to expand nitrogen management strip trials and related aerial imagery and preharvest corn stalk nitrate sampling throughout the state. These practices are now options for Iowa's Soil and Water Conservation Districts as local directors decide how to allocate county EQIP funding.
Funds matched with state, local money
"These projects exemplify cooperative conservation and continue USDA's partnership with public and private entities to promote practical, innovative solutions to manage our natural resources," says USDA Under Secretary Mark Rey. "When matched by state, local, tribal and private partners, these federal grants will support research to improve the quality of our air and water, while conserving our land."
Additional information about CIG, including summaries of approved projects, is available at www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/cig. A chart for a state listing of CIG projects (pdf) can be found at: www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/cig/2006awards.html.
The Iowa Soybean Association develops policies and programs to help farmers expand profit opportunities while promoting environmentally sensitive production using the soybean checkoff and other resources. A volunteer board of 21 farmers elected by Iowa soybean growers governs the association. The On-Farm Network is funded in part by the soybean checkoff.