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May 1, 2012

Districts receive $60,000 research grant from state

Conservation project will inform farmers about cropping practices

The Howard County Soil and Water Conservation District has received a $60,000 grant from the State Soil Conservation Board to conduct research that officials say will benefit local farmers.

René Weaver, officer manager for the Howard County SWCD, said the grant will fund a three-year investigation into the amount of nutrients contained in different types of crop covers and their effect on soil conditions.

Farmers plant cover crops like barley, alfalfa and radishes in the fall to manage soil fertility, soil quality, water, weeds and pests.

“There’s not a lot of data on cover crops for this part of the state,” Weaver said, noting most information about their effects on fields comes from surrounding states. “We’re trying to get more up-to-date data for this area.”

The money comes from a Clean Water Indiana Grant, which awards funds to soil and water conservation districts for projects related to soil quality degradation, water quality impairments and other soil and water concerns in forests, pastures and wildlife habitat areas.

Howard County is partnering with Tipton, Tippecanoe, Madison, Clinton and Carroll counties to conduct the research within the Wildcat Creek Watershed. The project will also receive assistance from Purdue Extension and the Purdue Agronomy Department.

Weaver said a farmer in each county will plant test strips of different cover crops. Soil and crop samples will then be evaluated by Purdue University.

She said farmers will be able to use the data when considering implementing cover crops into cropping systems to reduce soil loss due to erosion, mitigate the effects of depletion of organic matter and reduce compaction.

“Ultimately, this will give farmers some good background information to allow them to make the most informed decision about cropping practices,” Weaver said.

The grant money will be administered today, she said.

The Howard County SWCD is also one year into similar three-year research project with Tipton County to test the amount of nutrients in crop stock. The investigation is also funded by a Clean Water Indiana Grant totaling $45,000.

• Carson Gerber, Tribune reporter, may be reached by calling 765-854-6739 or via email at carson.gerber@kokomotribune.com.

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