HU water lab lands $590,000 grant

The National Center for Water Quality Research at Heidelberg University has received a grant of more than $590,000 from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to continue its research into nutrient tracking by encouraging best management practices.

Rem Confessor, research scientist with the water quality center, said Heidelberg is leading the three-year project in collaboration with the Sandusky River Watershed Coalition, Texas Institute for Applied Environmental Research, Tarleton State University, IPM Institute of North America, U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service and the Soil and Water Conservation Districts in the Sandusky River watershed.

“We are excited about this grant for the reason that it will help provide additional research about the benefits of various Best Management Practices and the modeling is one method to help farmers realize the research results and how they can impact their farming operations,” said Cindy Brookes, watershed specialist with the Sandusky River Watershed Coalition.

Heidelberg water quality center’s $591,655 is to be used to verify and enhance an NRCS-USDA Nutrient Tracking Tool with a suite of BMPs.

In making the announcement, NRCS said the National Center for Water Quality Research’s Heidelberg Tributary Loading Program has one of the most detailed and long-term water quality data sets available in the United States, particularly for agriculture-dominated watersheds. The data show sediment and particulate phosphorus runoff to Lake Erie has been reduced since the 1970s and still is decreasing while total phosphorus load has remained relatively constant.

However, since the mid-1990s dissolved reactive phosphorus loads have been rapidly increasing in the monitored tributaries.

The overall goal of this proposed project is to improve soil health and reduce nutrient and sediment exports from agricultural farms.

Specifically, the grant is to fund projects to demonstrate and quantify the economic and environmental benefits of a suite of best management practices through edge-of-field studies.

The funds also will assist with calibration and verification of an Agricultural Policy Environmental eXtender model and a Soil and Water Assessment Tool and increase BMP effects in northwest Ohio.

It also is to help calibrate and verify a Nutrient Tracking Tool for the Great Lakes basin, and promote and train producers using NTT to estimate farm yield and nutrient loss.

The grant also is to use an innovative approach to entice producers to adopt and implement BMPs by using NTT’s user-friendly models that help producers verify the effectiveness of BMPs and estimate corresponding farm yields in their own fields and demonstration farms.

The grant is one of 33 Conservation Innovation Grants totaling $3.3 million awarded by NRCS to organizations across the nation to take innovative approaches to improve soil health, conserve energy, manage nutrients and enhance wildlife habitat in balance with productive agricultural systems.

“The Conservation Innovation Grant program brings together the strength and innovation of the private and non-profit sectors, academia, producers, and others to develop and test cutting-edge conservation tools and technologies and work side-by-side with producers to demonstrate how solutions work on the land,” NRCS Chief Jason Weller said in a news release.

Grants are funded through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. Grantees must work with producers and forestland owners to develop and demonstrate new technologies and approaches.