The Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) promotes coordination between NRCS and its partners to deliver conservation assistance to producers and landowners. RCPP encourages partners to join in efforts with producers to increase the restoration and sustainable use of soil, water, wildlife and related natural resources on regional or watershed scales. Through this program many 4R Partners are able to leverage RCPP funding to promote projects that focus on and encourage 4R Nutrient Stewardship.
Below is an update on three RCPP projects currently underway in which our 4R Partners play a key role.
As the world’s most widely consumed grain, rice sustains about half of the world’s population and is a critical dietary staple upon which billions depend. In addition, rice agriculture is a sustaining resource for North America’s waterfowl population and 32 other at-risk wildlife species. As such, sustaining the future of rice represents one of the most important factors in the future of our nation’s food security and natural resource base. The USA Rice Federation, Ducks Unlimited, The Fertilizer Institute, and USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service are natural partners in sustaining the future of rice and the waterfowl that rely on these working wetlands. The centrality of rice agriculture to conservation efforts in key rice-growing regions led us to the Rice Stewardship Partnership (Partnership) to conserve three critical natural resources in North America: working ricelands, water and wetland wildlife.
On-the-ground our Partnership works with rice producers to make improvements along the nutrient management continuum — from basic to precision — to achieve optimal results from the fertilizer product and for the producer. The Partnership has a practice list of 21 measures that protect and improve water quality with many of these aimed directly at nutrient management and many of the others contributing to the management process.
Producer favorites are:
- Nutrient management – the 4 R’s
- Precision application technology
- Optimal application timing
- Integrated pest management
- Irrigation water management
- Drainage water management
- Grade stabilization structure
- Irrigation land leveling
- Tailwater recovery
- Field border
Over the next few years our partnership will:
- Elevate nutrient management practices and strategies along with NRCS programs, such as education and promotion of The Fertilizer Institute’s 4Rs and holding winter rainfall on fields for wildlife habitat and to allow settling of nutrients and sediment.
- Coordinate on-the-ground programs as every rice-growing state has numerous conservation opportunities, yet producers are either unaware or unsure of how to access those opportunities.
- Continued technical assistance along with NRCSis a never-ending opportunity within this Partnership. Progress and results should yield increased financial incentives to producers.
Our Rice Stewardship Partnership continues to grow and with support of The Fertilizer Institute will conserve three critical natural resources in North America: working ricelands, water and wetland wildlife.
Michigan Agri-Business Association
Michigan’s Saginaw Bay watershed is home to some of the state’s more productive, diverse cropland. Corn, soybeans, white wheat, dry beans and sugar beets thrive on the lakebed soils, but high phosphorus levels and sedimentation can impact local water quality. That’s why the Michigan Agri-Business Association, The Nature Conservancy and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service are working together with more than 40 other partners to promote conservation practices to protect and improve water quality across the region.
The project, undertaken through the 2014 Farm Bill’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program, is unique in both its targeting and delivery mechanisms. An online spatial analysis tool, The Great Lakes Watershed Management System, is used to identify resource concerns at a field level, allowing for targeted implementation of conservation efforts where their impact will be the greatest. Certified Crop Advisors from agronomy retailers across the region are charged with reaching out to the producers farming these high impact areas. The project tracks implementation progress, focusing on measured outcomes rather than simply acreage enrolled in conservation programs.
The project embodies the 4R approach, implementing the right types of conservation practices in the right place in the watershed to maximize value. The project is beginning enrollment in October 2015, but already has established nontraditional partnerships and a new approach to target and deliver conservation practices.
The Chesapeake 4R Alliance
The Chesapeake 4R Alliance is a collaboration of conservation agencies, departments of agriculture, agribusinesses, and researchers with the common goal of expanding 4R Nutrient Stewardship on the Delmarva Peninsula, a key area to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay. Founded by The Nature Conservancy and the Delaware Maryland Agribusiness Association, this diverse partnership is identifying 4R practices that have the greatest benefits in our region and to our producers, evaluating the environmental and economic benefits of those practices, and communicating those benefits to Delmarva farmers. In collaboration with the Delmarva Conservation Partnership, the Chesapeake 4R Alliance held a two day meeting in 2015 to begin the process of knowledge transfer among partners and identifying our priority practices.
With an initial investment from the USDA’s new Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) and leveraged partner contributions, partners brought together more than $10M over the next three yearsto implement both infield practices and wetland restoration and protection in priority locations of three key Chesapeake Bay watersheds – the Choptank, Nanticoke, and Pocomoke Rivers. In the first year of funding, advanced nutrient management practices- including zone management for soil sampling, nutrient recommendations and variable rate nutrient applications- were funded for 1,300 acres in these priority watersheds. The Chesapeake 4R Alliance looks forward to working with these and other farmers to highlight the benefits and increase adoption of 4R Nutrient Stewardship in the region.