Some of the most talked about environmental issues highlight the seven Iowa projects recently selected for funding for 2015 through USDA's Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) program.
Finding innovative strategies to improve water quality through nutrient reduction, soil health and pollinator habitat in Iowa highlight the grants USDA chose to fund. The CIG program requires a 50-50 funding match between USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the applicant. Each state selects proposals intended to stimulate the development and adoption of new conservation approaches, in conjunction with ag production.
Recipients provide a match. Iowa NRCS is providing $468,834 to the projects, which range from two to three years in length. Grant recipients are all non-governmental organizations partnering with other organizations to help them complete their goals. Grant recipients are dedicating $546,838 in matching funds for the following projects:
* Iowa State University will conduct a three-year study monitoring earthworms on six sites, analyzing the relationship between cover crops, soil health and earthworm populations ($74,481 through Sept. 30, 2018).
* ISU is receiving a CIG to install six saturated buffer demonstration sites, established using Monarch butterfly-friendly vegetation. ISU will analyze buffer performance to reduce nutrient loading, and assess Monarch and pollinator utilization ($74,451 through Sept. 30, 2018).
* Cedar Basin Crop Consulting will work with farmers, scientists, universities, and NRCS to update the Iowa Order 2 Soil Survey, completed 30 to 40 years ago. The end product will be state-of-the-art technology for more precise soils data than is now available ($73,505 through Sept. 30, 2017).
* The Soil and Water Conservation Society received funding to develop a media library, including photos, videos and other web-based products, to help tell the story of soil health and water quality conservation practices ($75,000 through Sept. 30, 2017).
* Practical Farmers of Iowa received a CIG to evaluate carcass quality and finishing time for grass finished beef to help determine the optimal harvest window, best times of year to finish animals, and harvest quality of grass versus hay-finished beef ($75,000 through Sept. 30, 2018).
* Cornell College in Mount Vernon will conduct a two-year study to establishing a network of butterfly habitat patches across Iowa's ag landscape. With Monarch butterflies on the decline in Iowa, findings will provide recommendations for the best seed mixes and seeding techniques ($24,575 through Sept. 30, 2017).
* The University of Iowa is using CIG funding to develop a new tool to assess impacts of conservation practice implementation on nutrient reduction at a watershed scale ($71,822 through Sept. 30, 2017).
For more information about Conservation Innovation Grants visit ia.nrcs.usda.gov.