Department of Agriculture Receives USDA NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant

2010_Loc_Farm_FieldDays-022-XLCAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Sept. 24, 2012 – The Department of Agriculture at Southeast Missouri State University has been awarded a two-year $18,000 grant to stimulate the development of innovative conservation and environmental protection methods.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Conservation Innovation Grant funding will be used to evaluate methods to reduce nutrient losses from underground irrigation and drainage systems.

The grant is titled “Evaluation and Management Protocols for Cover Crops Using Controlled Subsurface Drainage Irrigation to Limit Nitrate-Bearing Effluents.”

Under the grant, Dr. Michael Aide, chair of Southeast’s Department of Agriculture and project leader, and his team will evaluate recommendations for best management practices to limit nitrate movement from agricultural croplands having drainage systems. Best management practices that producers could use include using cover crops and developing vegetative buffers in key locations within a watershed.

The challenge is to provide nutrients necessary for crops while maintaining environmental and water quality, said Dr. Indi Braden, associate professor of agriculture. Nutrient losses from urban and agricultural lands could result in reduced water quality without proper management.

Potential benefits to producers from this project include methods to retain nutrients and promote soil and water quality for crop production. Also, limiting nitrates from streams, rivers and lakes protects drinking water supplies and promotes fish, migratory water fowl and other animals depending on these waters.

Dr. Abua Iken of Lincoln University will assist as a cooperating partner on the water and soil sampling and analysis. Dr. Wesley Mueller, Southeast professor of agriculture, and Braden will establish, evaluate and harvest corn, soybeans and cover crops.

“This project will allow the Department of Agriculture at Southeast Missouri State University to provide real-world application of agronomic principles,” Braden said. “Our students will be able to see classroom lessons put into action. By using cover crops in our management plans, we will also be able to demonstrate to Southeast Missouri producers possible best management practices to benefit their own operations and maintain environmental and water quality.”

The project also includes field days scheduled for October of both this year and next year. The field days typically have two audiences. The annual field days offer a setting to promote new technologies for profitable farming and demonstrate best management practices to protect soil and water resources. The first field day is expected to draw about 400 Future Farmers of America (FFA) students from high schools in southeast Missouri. The second field day is expected to have more than 200 participants on hand from the agriculture and agribusiness community.

“The faculty and our partners with USDA strive to guarantee that our food supplies are abundant and their production will have no negative impacts on our rural settings,” Aide said.