Innovative Cropping Systems SARE-PDP Project, Colonial Soil and Water Conservation District

Final Report for ES01-053

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2001: $49,913.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2002
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $49,913.00
Region: Southern
State: Virginia
Principal Investigator:
Brian Noyes
Colonial Soil and Water Conservation District
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Project Information

Abstract:

The Innovative Cropping System Incentive Program (ICS) was enhanced by SARE-PDP Funds to support a two-day training session held on May 21& 22, 2002. Attending professionals had an opportunity to learn detailed information concerning state of the art agricultural management systems. ICS methods, such as Continuous No-Till combined with intensive biomass rotations and nuttrient management, are primary tools utilized for soil quality improvement. Information was provided to raise awareness and confidence for professional support of ICS. Resource conservation and crop production efficiencies were presented. The participating speakers and topics presented a diverse program providing local, state and national perspectives. The second day provided access to numerous field research and demonstration plots. The program accommodated approximately 200 individuals. Virginia Tech designated the session as required in service training for Cooperative Extension. Certified Crop Consultant and Nutrient Management Certification Credits were offered. Materials, such as the ICS national award winning video, research data and informational publications were made available to all that attended and are attached to this report as hard copies.

Project Objectives:

The use of the SARE PDP Grant was critcal to understanding the far reaching implications and recognition of the applied success of ICS. SARE PDP Funds brought this understanding to a multitude of the most important individuals who can best transfer the ideology of soil quality. Some of the most respected academics and authorities in the nation participated on the agenda to share the scientific precedence that supports the unparalleled potential of soil quality.

Information was provided and demonstrated concerning the use of soil quality test kits as a tool to measure soil improvement. Collected field data from soil quality testing on long term ICS fields was presented and made available. Prescribed practices and system alterantives to address field variables where presented in the general program and during the field tour.

Introduction:

SARE PDP funding has been utilized by the ICS cooperators to provide professionals in the fields of agriculture and resource conservation a two-day training session. The event was held on May 21-22, 2002 and attended by approximately 200 persons. The program provided those in attendance with presentations from a variety of academic and program administrators that are on the national and local forefront of soil quality, agronomic systems technology, resource conservation and associated incentive based initiatives (see attached agenda). In addition, a dinner program featured ICS pioneering farmers who provided a practical perspective of the ICS variables and benefits. An ICS program summary and a presentation from Virginia’s Secretary of Natural Resources completed the classroom components of the program. The quality and diversity of subject matter underscored the importance of ICS. The second day of the training consisted of a field tour to observe a multitude of research and demonstration plots on five different farms (see attached tour program). A diversity of technical applications and evaluations were included as part of the field tour.

SARE PDP funds were made available to cooperators that administer an ongoing project known as the Innovative Cropping Systems Incentive Program (ICS). ICS consists of state of the art management systems that combine continuous no-till, intensive crop rotations and nutrient management that result in better soil quality. ICS evolved over the years to support agricultural technologies that show promise towards meeting water quality goals. ICS cooperators started with the promotion of crop production systems that were not accepted because of a perceived risk and lack of confidence in a system that could succeed in the face of numerous variables. Over time, the ICS cooperators have gained confidence and have overcome many obstacles, in the field.

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Objective:
Description:

Methods

Methods used to provide technical transfer consisted of highly qualified speakers, technical notebook, video, pioneering farmer testimonial,general program and breakout sessions. The second day included visits to a multitude of research plots installed using SARE funds along with leveraged state and private dollars. The plots addressed a multitude of variables encountered in the field of practical application. A total of 5 farms were visited on the day long tour.

Outreach and Publications

Over 200 individuals attended this SARE PDP Event. The attendees consisted of a diverse group of professionals that included private and government representatives in the fields of agriculture and resource conservation. A detailed workbook was distributed and is attached along with a registration list to this report as a hard copy.

Outcomes and impacts:

The results of the post test and program review indicate that much knowledge was gained about ICS technologies. The cooperative ICS partners are now in the process of building upon an extended network of partners to assist in securing the needed funds to better quantify the multiple benefits of soil quality. A result of the SARE PDP Funds include the engagement of the new state administration in Virginia(VA). The Honorable Tayloe Murphy, Virginia’s Secretary of Natural Resources provided a key note address for the dinner program which concluded the first day of the PDP training event. The ICS partnership has since been invited to meet with the Secretary and his newly appointed Director of the VA Dept. of Conservation & Recreation. This meeting was to provide more detail to a subject that “Drew such a large and distingushed crowd”. The ICS Program Administrator has also been asked to advise a working group chaired by the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) to develop criteria for the USDA Farm Bill to support continuous no-till systems. Finally, there is no doubt that this investment of SARE PDP Funds has resulted in a better understanding and appreciation of improvement of the soil resource which is critical to agricultural sustainability.

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

ICS features state of the art technologies including No-Till, nutrient management and intensive biomass rotations that have been implemented on a scale unequaled anywhere else in the nation. Technical transfer was provided to over 200 individuals (see attached registration) from 10 states and Washington, DC. Other noted attendants included journalist from the Brookings Institute, the Hudson Institute and Progressive Farmer. Department heads were also in attendance from USDA/NRCS, USDA/ARS, VA Dept. of Game and Inland Fisheries, NACD, EPA and VA Tech. A copy of the training notebook was distributed to all attending professionals. The notebook consisted of various research and technical publications and an ICS video (see attached copy).

The results of an evaluation have been tallied and attached showing a favorable investment of time and funds as indicated from those in attendance. All in attendance were encouraged to complete a Pre & Post Test (see attachments) in an effort to quantify knowledge gained. The results of a pre-test and post-test indicate an expanded knowledge of the subject matter was gained by those in attendance. The overall test results are as follows: 64 percent of the answers were correct in the Pre-Test compared to 74 per cent of the correct answers in the Post-Test.

In summary the following objectives were accomplished:

Participants are now better able to define soil quality and its importance

Participants were proviced scientific data and training on soil quality testing and evaluation.

Participants are now better able to prescribe practices and develop management systems that promote soil quality.

Participants are now better able to recognize alternative methods of tillage, nutrient management and pest management to conserve natural resources and farm sustainability.

Participants are now better able to understand alternative management systems for organic waste amendments to cropland.

Participants are now more aware of the environmental, economic and agronomic advantages and challenges associated with ICS.

The Professional Training will result in an expanded implementation of ICS technologies and agricultural sustainability.

The exposure of the ICS potential will result in the increased investment of public and private funds to implement ICS on a local, regional and national scale.

The SARE PDP Grant has resulted in increased farmer confidence in the vision and mission of the ICS project.

Implementation of ICS will become a primary tool used to meet and exceed state and federal resource conservation goals.

Professionals were provided an opportunity to better initiate locally supported resource conservation programs by observation of a successful grassroots program and networking with a diverse support group.

All materials made available as part of the training included the required USDA/SARE acknowledgements and disclaimers. Additional sponsors and in-kind services were utilized to achieve the above results. All expenditures are represented in the following financial statement and final request for reimbursement.

Recommendations:

Potential Contributions

The potential contributions resulting from the use of SARE PDP Funds include soil quality as a coefficient for watershed planning and modeling. Efforts are currently underway to measure soil carbon as a quantifiable factor to be used as a marketing tool to address multiple resource concerns. Efforts are underway to evaluate the effectiveness of ICS on a watershed scale.

Future Recommendations

The ICS cooperators are very thankful for the opportunities made available by the utilization of SARE PDP Funds. It is further recommended that future consideration be given to projects that focus on soil quality as a sustainable platform. Keep up the good work SARE ! Special thanks to Gwen Roland who was very helpful.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.