streams can be key health indicators Credit: Photo by Ben Abbott
Scientists at Michigan State University have shown that streams can be key health indicators of a region's landscape, but the way they're being monitored can be improved.

Partnership launches ag water quality practice assessment

Assessment seeks to better understand how effective specific agricultural management practices are at improving water quality.

A partnership to assess agricultural practices and strategies to further improve water quality in the U.S. was launched by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the Sand County Foundation, the Noble Research Institute and Farm Foundation.

The National Agricultural Water Quality Practice Assessment seeks to better understand how effective specific agricultural management practices are at improving water quality.

The yearlong project will culminate in a comprehensive report identifying current baseline knowledge about managing agricultural lands to improve conservation outcomes. The report will also identify critical gaps in knowledge as well as strategies to advance agricultural conservation adoption and effectiveness.

A key goal of the assessment is to help agricultural producers identify effective management practices that have the potential to yield tangible environmental results while supporting the economic viability of farms.

"Billions of dollars have been spent assessing this issue over the past 25 years, yet we don't have a sufficient understanding of the effectiveness and costs of on-farm conservation practices," said Kevin McAleese, president and chief executive officer of the Sand County Foundation.

"Data generated from this assessment will provided researchers and agricultural producers with the critical knowledge to make informed decisions," Noble Research Institute president and CEO Bill Buckner added. "Informed decisions are better decisions, which result in improved practices, better conservation and quality land stewardship."

"Farmers and ranchers want practices that support stewardship of water and land resources as well as the economic viability of their respective operations," Farm Foundation president Constance Cullman noted.

The assessment will be conducted in collaboration with NRCS to advance nationwide farm conservation programs. The National Water Quality Practice Assessment project is funded by NRCS, The Fertilizer Institute, The McKnight Foundation and The Ida & Robert Gordon Family Foundation.

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