The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced it is awarding $25 million to conservation partners across the country for 18 new projects under the Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) program’s On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials, including four projects and more than $5.5 million in California.
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 Carlos Suarez, NRCS State Conservationist in California. “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. This large investment in innovation is an acknowledgement of California agricultural and conservation partnerships’ ability to address emerging and existing conservation issues.”
Awarded Projects in California:
- Climate-smart Irrigation for Drought, Fertility, and Structural Resilience in Almond Systems (California) University of California, Davis, will incentivize almond growers to adopt deep root irrigation, pressure compensated subsurface drip irrigation and Hybrid Pb. Hybrid Pb is a new cool-season grass cover crop which differs from traditional cover crops in that it is perennial with a decadal lifespan, and it is dormant in the summer.
- Decision Support System for Irrigation with Limited Water (California, Oregon) Irrigation for the Future will demonstrate an advanced decision support system designed to calculate the productivity of water and optimize the economics of irrigation management field-by-field.
- Stacking Climate-Smart Agriculture and Pollinator Conservation to Leverage Market-Based Incentives (California, Maine, Montana, Oregon, Washington) Xerces Society will demonstrate, evaluate, and quantify conservation practices designed to maximize the dual goals of climate-smart agriculture and pollinator conservation at the farm level.
- Addressing Barriers for Historically Underserved Producers in California’s San Joaquin Valley to Implement Combined Soil Health Practices through Participatory Planning and Evaluation on Diversified Farms (California) The Regents of the University of California will address barriers faced by small-scale historically underserved producers to adopt soil health practices and systems. The project will build flexibility for producers to adapt practices to the unique circumstances of their operations and to test the performance of various practice combinations.
For details on all the awarded projects, visit the NRCS website.
About CIG On-Farm Trials
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.
For more information about the Conservation Innovation Grants program, visit the NRCS website.