Soil Health

NIFA awarded $6.3 million for 14 Soil Health grants and $5.4 million for seven Signals in the Soil grants through its Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.

WASHINGTON — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) will invest at least $21.7 million in several key programs to help agricultural producers manage the impacts of climate change on their lands and production.

NIFA awarded $6.3 million for 14 Soil Health grants and $5.4 million for seven Signals in the Soil grants through its Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI).

NIFA also is investing at least $10 million this year in a new AFRI program area priority called, “Extension, Education, and USDA Climate Hub Partnerships,” to train the next generation of agriculturalists and foresters to incorporate climate change research into their management practices.

This is the first in a series of announcements by USDA this week to underscore the Department’s renewed commitment to addressing climate change through adaptation and mitigation with climate-smart tools for farmers, ranchers, producers and foresters.

“USDA is committed to working alongside American producers, rural businesses and landowners to help them lead the way on addressing climate change, using the best USDA data and science to help improve their practices and spur new market opportunities,” said Vilsack.

Some projects funded from the Soil Health AFRI priority area include: “Pelletized Fire Mosses to Enhance Soil Health After High Severity Forest Fire,” for a new and effective way to boost soil health and promote the recovery of burned ecosystems.

“Flower Fields and Soils: The Impacts of Native Perennial Monoculture Plots on Soil Health,” aimed at improving the sustainability of agricultural production and evaluating new agricultural practices to improve soil health.

Some projects funded from the AFRI Signals in the Soil interagency program with the National Science Foundation include: “Novel Soil Frost Sensing Systems for Tracking Freeze-Thaw Cycles,” to develop, test and deploy wireless sensors and a ground-penetrating radar system for continuous measurements of soil frost.

“A Novel Large-Scale Radon Measurement Wireless Testbed for Spatio-Temporal Study of Radon in Surficial Soil,” will develop a real-time radon measurement test with a wireless sensor network. This is important because exposure to radon gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer, according to the World Health Organization.

“By combining NIFA and National Science Foundation resources, the Signals in the Soil program fosters collaboration among a broad set of researchers to fund the most innovative and high-impact projects where multiple disciplines converge to produce novel soil sensing systems,” said NIFA director Dr. Carrie Castille.

Ena Sellers may be reached at esellers@ncweeklies.com