USDA Conservation Grant to Improve Iowa’s Soil Health


Photo by Mr. T in DC; Flickr

The U.S. Department of Agriculture provided grants to Iowa several groups with a target of improving the health of the state’s soil.

“Even though many of the projects focus on soil health, they do it in very different ways, from researching innovative ways to create healthier soil to conservation lease agreements to finding cover crop seed solutions,” said Jay Mar, Iowa Natural Resources Conservation Service State Conservationist.

The USDA’s conservation innovation grants went to:

• Cedar Basin Crop Consulting Inc. of Decorah will coordinate a project with conservation partners to help build resiliency to climate change by improving soil health and nitrogen management through the use of soil quality testing and the Adapt-N Management Tool. ($75,000 through Sept. 30, 2015)

• City of Griswold to help fund the use of winter-hardy cover crops to help reduce nitrates from non-point sources in the city’s municipal wells and water supply. ($62,000 through Sept. 20, 2016)

• Iowa Soybean Association to develop cover crop and soil health implementation planning and evaluation protocol for Iowa farmers. ($59,573 through March 31, 2016)

• Drake University Agricultural Law Center to conduct demonstrations of conservation farm lease contracts to promote soil conservation and health and nutrient management. ($26,652 through Sept. 30, 2014)

• Hagie Manufacturing to find innovative cover crop seeding solutions by utilizing innovative approaches to increase the adoption rate of emerging nutrient management and load reduction practices such as cover crops, drainage water management, and bioreactors. ($75,000 through July 31, 2015)

• Iowa State University to evaluate planting technologies for the successful establishment of cover crop mixtures and single species in Iowa. ($75,000 through Dec. 31, 2015)

• Boone Soil & Water Conservation District for a mobile soil health outreach laboratory to educate central Iowa’s agricultural community about soil health-improving technologies and practices. ($39,280 through Sept. 30, 2015)

• Keyline Silvopasture to research ways of reducing soil erosion and increasing forage yields, livestock comfort, and water-holding capacity of grassland soils and ecosystems. ($63,305 through Sept. 20, 2014)

• Trees Forever Inc. to provide outreach to landowners and resource conservation professionals about long-term reductions in nutrient loading through agroforestry in Iowa. ($28,044 through Sept. 30, 2016)

• Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation for tools and training for technical service providers who provide farm flood mitigation plans. ($75,000 through Sept. 30, 2015)

• Iowa League of Resource Conservation & Development offices to find ways to communicate with people traveling Iowa’s byways about Iowa’s agricultural landscapes and innovative conservation systems that are being used to protect and preserve them. ($74,520 through Sept. 30, 2015)

Four projects with local ties were selected for national Conservation Innovation Grants, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced last week. They are:

• Women, Food and Agriculture Network to improve soil health across the upper Midwest by increasing soil health literacy among women farmland owners, and supporting them to improve soil health on the land they own and lease. ($525,043)

• Iowa State University to demonstrate and evaluate cover crop mixtures using emerging technologies on 15 demonstration sites throughout Iowa. ($485,850)

• Environmental Defense Fund Inc. to demonstrate and document how NRCS and partners can design and implement a systems approach to agricultural conservation to achieve greater water quality improvements. ($992,022)

• Conservation Technology Information Center to assess costs and benefits of cover crops with proven tools, from mathematical models to nitrogen rate strip trials, and documentation of pollinators in project fields. ($482,000)

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