USDA awards Conservation Innovation Projects

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced it is awarding $25 million to conservation partners across the country for 18 new projects under the Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials program.

On-Farm Trials projects support widespread adoption and evaluation of innovative conservation approaches in partnership with agricultural producers. This year’s awarded projects increase the adoption of new approaches and technologies to help agricultural producers mitigate the effects of climate change, increase the resilience of their operations and boost soil health.

“Farmers, ranchers and forest landowners play a crucial role in charting the course towards a climate-smart future,” said Terry Cosby, Chief of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). “On-Farm Trials enable partners to work with producers to test and adopt new climate-smart systems on their operations that support agricultural production and conserve natural resources, while also building climate resilience.”

Awarded projects include “Diversifying Appalachia’s Pastures to Improve Soil Health (West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania)WVU Research Corporation will promote and evaluate pasture diversification through reseeding as an innovative conservation strategy.

For details on the additional awarded projects, visit the NRCS website.

On-Farm Trials projects feature collaboration between NRCS and partners to implement on-the-ground conservation activities and then evaluate their impact. Incentive payments are provided to producers to offset the risk of implementing innovative approaches. 

The Soil Health Demonstration Trial (SHD) component of On-Farm Trials focuses exclusively on conservation practices implementation and systems that improve soil health.

Three of the four funding priorities support the wider adoption of climate-smart agricultural practices and systems: climate-smart agricultural solutions; irrigation management technologies; and the practices/systems to build soil carbon through the SHD.

A critical element of each On-Farm Trials project is the project evaluation. Partners must propose robust scientific approaches to their On-Farm Trials, resulting in data and analyses of the environmental, financial and (to the extent possible) social impacts of the trials. 

NRCS intends to use the results of On-Farm Trials project evaluations and analyses to explore the development of new NRCS business practices, guidance documents, technical tools and conservation practice standards or modifications to existing ones.

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