In 2012, CCSI expanded its operations with assistance from a Conservation Innovation Grant from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. The grant was given for a three-year term and supports the Conservation Cropping Systems Initiative for Soil Health & Productivity project. The project will test conservation practices on soil throughout the state, gain quantitative scientific and economic data, and empower and inspire Indiana producers to adopt conservation systems.
Five regional hubs located throughout the state, located at the Purdue University Diagnostic Center, Northeastern Purdue Agriculture Center, Southeast Purdue Agriculture Center, Wabash Farm, and plots at Vincennes University – Jasper Campus (managed by the Dubois County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD)) and the Wabash County SWCD, will host workshops, demonstrations, and provide for study and experimental plots throughout the three-year project.
Each regional hub represents soil types, climate and topography common to its area. The hubs will provide opportunities for hands-on learning, one-on-one communication and long-term evaluation of the adoption of soil health systems. Their locations are strategic: farmers all over the state will find themselves near one.
The project’s partners are listed in the right sidebar.
Throughout the three-year project period, scientists will evaluate the impacts of several conservation systems and practices on soil health, nutrient cycling, soil water availability and plant growth. Participating farmers and research plots will provide the land required for these studies. The farms will have practices in place such as the study include long-term continuous no-till/strip-till, cover crops, precision technology, and a variety of nutrient and pest management practices.
In conjunction with the regional hubs, 12 farmers will host demonstration sites on their farms, comparing their current conservation systems with programs that introduce new practices. The impacts of the new practices on soil health and an array of other variables will be measured and documented, and comparisons made with fields on the same or nearby farms. These farmers will also serve as mentors to producers interested in adopting new conservation tactics.