Division of Agriculture, Arkansas Soil Alliance announces $1 million grant
- NRCS grant will fund soil health research
- Emphasis on the efficacy of cover crops, no-till techniques
- Demo plots planned for 25 Delta district counties
LITTLE ROCK – The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture will receive nearly $1 million in grant funding from the Natural Resources Conservation Service to study the efficacy of cover crops and no-tillage techniques and their effect on overall soil health.
Mike Daniels, extension water quality and nutrient management specialist for the Division of Agriculture, said he originally applied for the grant after discussions with the Arkansas Soil Health Alliance, a farmer-led coalition of Arkansas growers interested in increasing and maintaining soil health through techniques including cover crops and avoiding tillage during fallow periods.
Daniels said the grant will help fund a team of Division of Agriculture researchers, extension specialists and county agents to conduct research into the use of these techniques on Discovery Farms and other sites throughout the state, and provide education related to new and existing findings. Partners in the grant include the Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Arkansas Soil Health Alliance, the members of which will serve as the project’s advisory committee.
The Discovery Farms project, initiated in Arkansas in 2010, uses edge-of-field monitoring on about a dozen farms throughout the state to analyze water runoff and determine the amount of nutrients being lost in the process. This puts researchers in a good position to make recommendations regarding fertilizers and irrigation for strong yields while minimizing inputs, waste and runoff.
Arkansas’s Discovery Farms project was originally modeled after the original project developed in Wisconsin in 2008.
“We’ve seen a lot of interest from some farmers in our state in trying to improve their soil health, which could increase their productivity, natural resource protection, and reduce their irrigation needs,” Daniels said.
“Farmers who lead the Arkansas Soil Health Alliance believe that the more they mimic nature, by keeping the ground covered and undisturbed, the more they reduce their needs for inputs, thus increasing profitability,” he said.
“We were already set up on discovery farms to look at water runoff, but we haven’t tried to measure or define what we mean by soil health,” he said. Research funded by the new grant will not only study the effects of cover crops and other techniques, but will also help to define standards for what healthy soil should actually look like, from the standpoints of nutrients, compaction and other soil and water benchmarks.
Daniels said providing education on soil health is also a cornerstone of the project. Over the next three years, Cooperative Extension Agents will maintain demonstration plots in all 25 counties in the state’s Delta District, which essentially covers the eastern third of Arkansas.
To learn about soil health, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit www.uaex.edu.
About the Division of Agriculture
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system.
The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
Media Contact: Ryan McGeeney
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service