The Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources announced it will fund five projects using cover crop demonstration grants in 2020 to increase establishment of cover crops and related tillage practices.
The grants were made to soil and water conservation districts in specific regions of Minnesota that are focusing on water quality. The districts that were awarded funding through a request-for-proposals process are Traverse SWCD, Stearns SWCD, East Otter Tail SWCD, Root River SWCD and Faribault SWCD.
The grant projects will help build local knowledge, facilitate partnerships and determine methods to increase long-term implementation of cover crops, according to BWSR.
Funding requests range from $125,000 to $250,000 for a total of $1 million.
“Cover crop demonstration grants will allow local conservation staff and landowners to identify best practices for sustainable tillage methods that can serve as a model for producers across the state,” says John Jaschke, BWSR executive director.
Overall, BWSR received 18 proposals requesting a total of $3.8 million. Five were selected by BWSR and will use the funds as follows:
East Otter Tail SWCD. East Otter Tail plans to establish three cover crop demonstration sites where producers can observe practices and benefits firsthand. Additionally, the SWCD will host informational meetings and farmer field days to further engage new adopters. East Otter Tail SWCD strives to establish 1,000 acres of cover crops annually for three years by focusing on education and partnerships.
Stearns SWCD. Stearns aims to add 1,000 new acres of cover crops within a targeted area in central Stearns County. This area contains more than 38,000 acres of cropland, 8,000 of which are in Drinking Water Supply Management Areas (DWSMAs) with soils rated as highly vulnerable. Stearns SWCD plans to develop a robust farmer recruitment effort using these grant funds.
Traverse SWCD. Traverse will prioritize cover crop adoption as outlined in their developing Comprehensive Watershed Management Plan. The SWCD plans to work with producers who farm cropland in DWSMAs, setting a goal of installing cover crops on 200 acres within delineated DWSMAs each year for three years.
Faribault SWCD. Faribault plans to strengthen their existing cover crop program by working one-on-one with new adopters. This project strives to reduce risks associated with establishing cover crops by providing a per-acre financial incentive to eligible farmers to help offset the cost of the change in tillage practice. Educational opportunities for new adopters will also be developed.
Root River SWCD. Root River will develop a cover crop program that offers both technical and financial assistance to new adopters, with a goal of adding 400 new acres of cover crops annually for three years. Crop producers with land located within two miles of municipal drinking water supplies will be the primary focus. The SWCD will also provide soil health testing to producers working to implement cover crops for the first time