Watershed Monitoring: USDA Has $2Mln Available for Farmers in 6 States

Group takes a close look at edge of field monitoring equipment. Photo: USDA

USDA is making $2 million available this year to farmers in specific watersheds across Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, New York, and Washington.

NRCS provides technical and financial assistance to farmers in target watersheds who are interested in voluntarily installing monitoring stations. NRCS first introduced edge-of-field monitoring as an opportunity through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) in 2013.

Edge-of-field Monitoring

Through edge-of-field monitoring, NRCS works with farmers and conservation partners to measure the runoff from a field. They determine the amount of sediment and nutrients being lost and compare the results from different conservation systems. This helps farmers understand which conservation practices are best at preventing sediment and nutrient runoff and helps NRCS measure the effectiveness of practices available through programs.

Monitoring stations measure water quality right at the edge of farm fields. This is more accurate than estimates from in-stream measurements, which are subject to influences outside of the farmer’s control. Edge-of-field monitoring, combined with instream monitoring, can supply a more thorough picture of improvements within a watershed.

The data collected is kept confidential for the farmer’s use and for use by the conservation partners responsible for monitoring.

Farmers using edge-of-field monitoring  can monitor the amount of nutrients and sediment in water runoff at the field level. They learn what is happening on in a particular field, which helps make informed decisions about inputs and conservation practices. These decisions increase efficiency and maximize yields while also conserving natural resources. 

Producers in target watersheds interested in edge-of-field monitoring can apply for financial assistance through EQIP. As part of applying for financial assistance, producers work with their local NRCS conservationist to develop a conservation plan and ensure they’re eligible for participation. The plan identifies resources concerns like water quality and provides a basis for determining the best conservation activities for farmers. Learn more on getting started with NRCS with the Five Steps to Assistance guide.

If selected, NRCS will provide financial assistance to the producer to implement the conservation practices. Before implementation, producers typically will work with the monitoring partner to develop a plan outlining the monitoring question, how equipment will be installed, and how data will be collected and analyzed. Once NRCS approves this plan, the producer and monitoring partner can implement the practices.

Common Questions Answered by Monitoring

Questions that edge-of-field monitoring can answer include:

  • What is the effect of nutrient management and Irrigation Water Management on a rice/soybean rotation in the Mississippi River Basin?
  • Do cover crops reduce nutrient runoff in a corn/soybean rotation?
  • Do grassed waterways affect nutrient runoff?
  • Is the Phosphorus Removal System effective in removing phosphorous from tile drainage?

Since 2013, NRCS has funded over 40 edge-of-field projects in 10 states: Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and Alabama. For more information about edge-of-field monitoring, contact your local USDA service center.





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