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Posts tagged: Conservation Innovation Grant

Grant Helps Farmers’ Sustainability Goals, Embrace New Technology

Young soybean plants thrive in the residue of a wheat crop. This form of no till farming provides good protection for the soil from erosion and helps retain moisture for the new crop. NRCS photo.

Young soybean plants thrive in the residue of a wheat crop. This form of no till farming provides good protection for the soil from erosion and helps retain moisture for the new crop. NRCS photo.

How can farmers reduce their fertilizer costs, maintain yields, reduce their environmental impacts, and take advantage of a new and emerging source of income? A project funded by a USDA Conservation Innovation Grant is showing how.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service awarded a CIG grant in 2011 to the Delta Institute to develop an innovative opportunity for farmers to receive greenhouse gas emissions reductions payments from the voluntary implementation of more efficient nitrogen fertilizer management techniques.

The Delta Institute engaged a variety of partners in the project, including American Farmland Trust, Conservation Technology Information Center, Environmental Defense Fund and agricultural retailers. Read more »

Passionate Couple, USDA, Team up for ‘Miracle:’ Bringing Back the American Chestnut

James and Gail Cope look out over their land in Kentucky. USDA photo.

James and Gail Cope look out over their land in Kentucky. USDA photo.

It was on a hilltop in eastern Kentucky where I first met James and Gail Cope, looking at the 27 newly planted American chestnut seedlings on their land. It was our common love for this rare tree that brought us together.

American chestnut trees once dominated the Appalachian landscape, but during the early 1900s a fungus struck the trees causing them nearly to vanish. The American Chestnut Blight, an Asian fungus, first struck in 1904 in New York City and quickly spread, leaving in its wake a trail of dead and dying stems.  By the 1950s, the keystone species of some nine million acres of forests had disappeared.

The tree is important because it produces bushels of nuts for wildlife, and animals like squirrels, wild turkey, white-tailed deer, black bear, and grouse depend on the nuts for a major food source. Read more »

USDA Helps Water Quality Trading Systems Thrive in the Chesapeake Bay Region

Staff members from the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay and the Maryland Forest Service advise a forest landowner on options for how to  participate in a water quality trading system.

Staff members from the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay and the Maryland Forest Service advise a forest landowner on options for how to participate in a water quality trading system.

Government agencies and organizations in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia have been building water quality trading systems during the past few years to lower the cost of regulatory compliance with water quality laws.

These trading systems enable  farmers, ranchers and forest landowners in these Chesapeake Bay-area states to generate income by selling water quality credits to regulated entities like waste water treatment facilities and developers. As this market matures, people will be able to incorporate clean water into their overall management objectives more seamlessly.

The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, with funding from a USDA Conservation Innovation Grant, is developing tools to make it easier for people who own or manage forests to offer up their forested land for possible water quality and other ecosystem service credits. The alliance is working to streamline the credit development process for water quality trading on forested land in the region. Read more »

Water Quality Trading in the Chesapeake Bay

Water quality in the Chesapeake Bay is important for many reasons, such as supporting local fishing economies. Water quality trading is one way to improve the quality of the Bay so that we can continue to rely on the ecosystem benefits it provides. Photo credit: NRCS

Water quality in the Chesapeake Bay is important for many reasons, such as supporting local fishing economies. Water quality trading is one way to improve the quality of the Bay so that we can continue to rely on the ecosystem benefits it provides. Photo credit: NRCS

Last fall, USDA brought together a group of Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) awardees, state policymakers, and other stakeholders involved in one of the most challenging nutrient management initiatives in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed: enabling water quality trading markets.

Water quality trading offers flexibility to those required to improve water quality in the Bay: power plants, wastewater treatment plants, new developments, and agricultural producers, among others. It allows those facing high costs of water quality improvement to reduce those costs, working with farmers to improve water quality on their behalf, thus providing farmers with additional income streams and the opportunity to significantly increase the scope of conservation practices on their land. Read more »

Conservation Innovation Grant Helps Cranberry Farmers Conserve Water, Shield Fruit from Cold

Growers load cranberries after a harvest at Mayflower Cranberries in Plympton, Mass. Photo by Jeff LaFleur of Mayflower Cranberries used with permission.

Growers load cranberries after a harvest at Mayflower Cranberries in Plympton, Mass. Photo by Jeff LaFleur of Mayflower Cranberries used with permission.

It’s tough to imagine the Thanksgiving celebration without turkey, dressing, and most importantly, the cranberry sauce. To keep this holiday staple safe from the cold and ready for harvest, farmers apply water to cranberries on frosty nights.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association worked with growers to install automated sprinkler systems that conserve water and trim costs.

With the automated system, cranberry growers can control sprinklers from a computer and turn on and off sprinklers with a simple button. Traditionally, the different systems had to be turned on and off manually, wasting time, money and water. Read more »

Conservation Innovation Grant Produces Carbon Farming Opportunities in North Dakota

A Missouri Coteau wetland near Bismarck, N.D., in the heart of the Prairie Pothole Region. Credit: Jim Ringelman, Ducks Unlimited, used with permission.

A Missouri Coteau wetland near Bismarck, N.D., in the heart of the Prairie Pothole Region. Credit: Jim Ringelman, Ducks Unlimited, used with permission.

The Prairie Pothole Region of North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana provides sanctuary to millions of nesting waterfowl each summer. With an innovative partnership led by Ducks Unlimited (DU), USDA is helping to provide new opportunities for agricultural producers in the region to sequester carbon while cultivating new revenue streams.

With the help of a grant from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, these partners have created a carbon credit system for private landowners in North Dakota who agree to avoid tillage of grasslands. Grasslands store carbon dioxide, one of the leading greenhouse gases contributing to climate change.

The North Dakota Prairie Pothole project, funded by a USDA Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) of $161,000, provides potential new revenue streams for landowners while avoiding greenhouse gas emissions and increasing carbon sequestration. Read more »