The Ohio Farm Bureau Federation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service have signed a new, five-year agreement to continue research for the Blanchard River Demonstration Farms Network project. The ongoing efforts of the two organizations will study ideas that emphasize protecting Ohio’s water resources and soil health through innovative agricultural practices.
After the establishment of the project in 2015, three demonstration farms were created as models for new innovations that reduce and prevent agricultural nutrient runoff and have shared those discoveries with local farmers, land management agencies and the public. The demonstration farms are a key component of Ohio Farm Bureau’s Water Quality Action Plan, a comprehensive initiative to help farmers proactively improve and protect water quality.
“Being able to conduct this type of research on real farms, each of different scales and scopes, has been invaluable as we look for ways for farmers to maintain their production levels while also protecting the quality of water and their soils,” said Adam Sharp, executive vice president of Ohio Farm Bureau. “I look forward to the ongoing research on the demo farms that will help farmers across Ohio learn about proven practices that will keep water clean and healthy for themselves and for their neighbors downstream.”
Over the next five years, the Blanchard River Demonstration Farms project will continue research in the areas of edge of field monitoring, drainage water management, cover crops and economic analysis and will begin new research on precision agriculture, subsurface nutrient placement, application timing and strip tillage.
In addition to increasing farmer engagement and adoption of practices being used on the demo farms, other objectives for the program will be to evaluate new and existing on-farm conservation practices for feasibility, practicality and outcomes at the farm level; develop economic analysis for all practices to determine cost-saving opportunities; and measure which practices are most cost-effective while reducing nutrient loss.
“The farmers involved in this project have been very open to new ideas and have been instrumental in finding the baselines for on-going testing of various water quality practices,” said Aaron Heilers, Blanchard River Demonstration Farms Network project manager. “Their commitment to another five years is a testament to how farmers are eager to find long-term solutions to Ohio’s water quality issues.”
NRCS will continue to provide eligible farm operators with financial assistance through conservation program contracts for conservation system implementation and will provide technical guidance to the advisory committee. NRCS also will continue to provide conservation experts to speak during field days and other outreach events.
“Inviting farmers, agribusinesses, lawmakers and other stakeholders to see, firsthand, what is being tested on these demo farms has really opened people’s eyes,” said Terry Cosby, state conservationist for Ohio. “Being able to realize what farmers are currently doing and what conservation practices could be utilized in the future is key when it comes to providing the necessary resources to put many best management practices in place at the farm level.”
Meet the Blanchard River Demonstration Farms Network farm families and learn more about the research being done on their farms at blancharddemofarms.org.