Thursday, June 16, 2011

NRCS Holds Second Partner Forum on Initiative to Increase the Adoption of the Management of Agricultural Drainage Water for Conservation Benefits

On June 15 the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) held a second "Ag and Conservation Partner Forum" in Washington, DC on a developing initiative designed to foster greater voluntary adoption of the management of agricultural drainage water by producers, especially in the Upper Mississippi River Basin (you can visit the NRCS web site on the work to date - and upcoming activities - here).

The meeting - on the topic of “Increasing the Adoption of the Management of Ag Drainage Water for Conservation Benefits” - followed an initial partner meeting held on March 23, 2011, and covered issued raised at the March meeting and recent NRCS developments since then.

Much of the June 15 meeting focused on the results of a suite of recently-completed pilot projects in 20 row crop fields across five Midwestern states (Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio).  The Agricultural Drainage Management Coalition-sponsored projects were funded under the NRCS Conservation Innovative Grants (CIG) program. NRCS concludes based on the CIG report findings that "very substantial environmental impacts" can be realized (including reductions in nitrate outflow through utilization of drainage water management from 20 to 60%), with "negligible impacts on yield."  The full report, "Drainage Water Management for Midwestern Row Crop Agriculture (very large PDF file) and its Executive Summary (smaller PDF file) have been made available by NRCS for review.

Other topics discussed at the June 15 forum included:
  • A summary of a Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) supported analysis of the projected effects of drainage water management on nitrogen loss in the Mississippi River Basin (including the Ohio, Tennessee, Missouri and Arkansas River subbasins);
  • A National Drainage Water Management Summit being planned for October 11-13 in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul region (to assess the state of drainage water management science and technology, to develop and foster partnerships and to identify barriers to the adoption of the technology);
  • An overview of drainage water management practice applications to date (over the past decade) across the US; and
  • A very preliminary draft Drainage Water Management Team Action Plan.
NRCS will post information from the June 15 meeting, including the meeting agenda, PowerPoint presentations, the draft Drainage Water Management Team Action Plan, and additional information about the October National Summit, on its drainage water management initiative web site soon.


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