LITTLE ROCK — The University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service has been awarded a nearly $1 million federal grant for a project that will test innovative approaches to conserving America’s private lands, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Friday.
The $969,299 Conservation Innovation Grants award will be used to test low-cost water monitoring equipment at Arkansas’ Discovery Farm installations.
Discovery Farm is a project in which research is conducted on commercial farms rather than laboratories. Edge-of-field monitoring of farm runoff is important as researchers work to solve the problem of hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico – the end of the line for all drainage in the Mississippi River Basin.
"This grant will go a long way to help us perform edge-of-field monitoring, so we can not only see how much water is leaving the farm, but what it’s carrying with it," Mike Daniels, extension water quality and nutrient management specialist for the UA Division of Agriculture, said in a news release. "The monitoring equipment is very expensive. The equipment we’ll be testing with this grant will enable us to do the same comprehensive monitoring for a lot less money."
Daniels said the grant will also fund a training program and create materials to engage others in the monitoring program, as well as host a conference in Memphis, Tenn., that will bring together soil and water professionals from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico.
The objectives of the grant complement monitoring efforts that are part of the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative, a financial assistance program that helps agricultural producers within 13 states along the river’s corridor implement conservation practices to reduce sediment and nutrient losses.
"Conservation Innovation Grants help spur creativity and problem-solving in our nation’s farms, ranches and forest lands," said Mike Sullivan, Arkansas state conservationist. "Conservation grants allow the best minds in America to develop unique and innovative solutions that will help make conservation more efficient in the future."
Partners in the Extension Service research are Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station, Arkansas State University, University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff, University of Wisconsin-Platteville and the Soil and Water Conservation Society.