NRCS’s Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials (On-Farm Trials) – United States

NRCS’s Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials (On-Farm Trials) – United States

Deadline: 11 May 2020

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) – Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is announcing the availability of CIG On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials (On-Farm Trials) to stimulate the adoption and evaluation of innovative conservation approaches in partnership with agricultural producers.

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The purpose of On-Farm Trials is to stimulate the adoption and evaluation of innovative conservation approaches in partnership with agricultural producers. For 2020, NRCS is implementing On-Farm Trials through eligible entities, which in turn work collaboratively with NRCS and agricultural producers to implement innovative approaches on private lands. On-Farm Trials supports the implementation of innovative approaches that have a positive conservation effect but which, for any number of reasons, have not yet been adopted by producers.

On-Farm Trials Priorities

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Each year, NRCS identifies priority topics for On-Farm Trials. For 2020, On-Farm Trials applications must address one of the four following priorities. Proposals may address more than one priority, but each proposal must clearly identify a primary priority for the application to be considered under. The priorities are:

Irrigation Management Technologies: NRCS seeks On-Farm Trials applications that evaluate innovative water management systems that enhance a producer’s ability to monitor irrigation needs effectively, manage irrigation practices efficiently, and increase water savings. Innovative irrigation systems should focus on balancing producer needs with conservation benefits. Examples of innovative irrigation management technologies include—
Technologies that measure plant distress or soil moisture and automate irrigation through regular reporting to a centralized system.
Sensors that report data from weather stations or soil monitoring sensors to cloud-based systems and devices, allowing producers to assess irrigation needs remotely or from a handheld device.
Innovative approaches that address barriers to adoption of irrigation management systems. These barriers may include substantial upfront costs of system installation, accessibility of systems (i.e., availability for purchase at mainstream retailers), ease of installation and the need for system customization.
Precision Agriculture Technologies and Strategies: NRCS seeks On-Farm Trials applications that evaluate innovative precision agriculture technologies that have been field-validated and have proven stakeholder support (stakeholders may include State departments of agriculture, land grant universities, water quality control entities, USDA, agricultural producers, scientists, or other similar entities). Innovations in this category should focus on technologies that provide accurate, real-time data to producers and increase their ability to efficiently manage nutrients and pests. Examples of innovative precision agriculture approaches include—
Real-time sensors of crop canopy to adjust nutrient or pest management. Examples include sensors used to identify nutrient deficiencies, irrigation needs, or pest presence prior to visual indicators.
On-the-go soil sensors to measure mechanical, physical, and chemical soil properties, and use real-time data to adjust application rates of fertilizers.
Management Technologies and Strategies: NRCS seeks On-Farm Trials applications that evaluate approaches to help producers improve management of production systems while achieving conservation benefits. Innovations should result in significant conservation benefits while potentially providing economic benefits to producers. Examples of innovative approaches under this category include—
Enhanced nutrient management plans, including plans accounting for differences beyond yield potential and soil type, such as soil organic matter, soil biological activity, tillage regime, field drainage/drainage management, irrigation management, and seasonal effects of weather events.
Remote sensing technologies that assist in pesticide application.
Differential pesticide spraying technologies.
Technologies that reduce drift of applied pesticides.
Nutrient recovery systems such as bioreactors and multistage drainage strategies to mitigate nutrient losses.
Whole-farm nutrient budgets that account for all nutrient imports and exports of an operation.
Edge-of-field monitoring for pesticides targeting commonly used active ingredients.
Technologies maximizing role of smart machines (such as row robots, etc.) in weed control.
Soil Health Demonstration Trials (SHD): The SHD are on-farm demonstrations of long-term, successful soil health management systems (SHMS) and/or production systems being transitioned to a SHMS, managed by agricultural producers.
An SHMS is a collection of management practices that focuses on increasing soil carbon levels and improving soil health by addressing all four soil health management principles:
minimize disturbance,
maximize soil cover,
maximize biodiversity,
maximize presence of living roots.

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Funding Information

Funding available for On-Farm Trials in 2020 is $25 million.
Up to $10 million of On-Farm Trials funding is intended for awards made under the SHD.
The maximum amount of a single award under either On-Farm Trials or the SHD is $5 million.
The minimum award is $250,000. NRCS anticipates making between 15 and 20 awards.
NRCS accepts proposals for projects of 3 to 5 years in duration.
Eligibility Criteria

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As defined in the On-Farm Trials statute, eligible entities are limited to—

Private entities whose primary business is related to agriculture;
Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) with experience working with agricultural producers; and,
Non-Federal government agencies.
Numerous entity types may qualify under one or more of these categories, including state, county, city or township governments; Federally recognized Native American tribal governments; nonprofits with 501(c)(3) status; and institutions of higher education (private, public, and state run). Institutions of higher education may qualify as either NGOs or private entities whose primary business is related to agriculture.

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