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By Ryan McGeeney U of A System Division of AgricultureJan. 19, 2018
(625 words)(Download this story in MS Word format here.)
LITTLE ROCK – The Discovery Farms project, which began in Arkansas about eight years
ago, will expand to Phillips County in 2018, collecting data and testing conservation
recommendations on its first farm in close proximity to the Mississippi River.
Mike Daniels, extension water quality and nutrient management specialist for the University
of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said the program will now include a farm
operated by producers Mike Taylor and his son, Michael Taylor.
The Discovery Farms project began in Wisconsin in 2008. Through use of edge-of-field
monitoring and other monitoring techniques, scientists analyze water runoff to determine
the amount of nutrients being lost in the growing process. Experts then make recommendations
to the growers, regarding the application of fertilizers and the amount of water used
in crop irrigation, and continue to monitor runoff to study how the recommendations
affect the process.
After visiting several existing Discovery Farms in Wisconsin, Daniels helped secure
funding for the first Arkansas Discovery Farms in 2010. With the addition of the Phillips
County location, there are currently 11 active Discovery Farms in Arkansas. Some farms
that have been part of the project in the past have since been “graduated out” of
the program, and other new farms introduced.
Daniels said that not only will adding the Taylors’ farm to the state’s project help
give a clearer picture of farming and soil conditions in the Delta in Arkansas, it
will also provide a chance to study the effectiveness of using cover crops and a not-till
approach to the fallow season on reducing nutrient waste, as the Taylors have long
been proponents of both.
“Mike has been a leader in our state using no-till and cover crops,” Daniels said.
“He was one of the earliest adopters; he’s had continuous cover crops and no-till
for 12-15 years on some of his fields. We think we can learn a lot from him about
how cover crops are playing a role in water quality.”
Daniels said his team of researchers try to find three to four locations on each participating
farm to monitor water quality in active fields, initially establishing baseline data
for the presence of nutrients that are likely flowing off-target.
Daniels said the process helps address public concerns about nonpoint source pollution,
which are sometimes tied to agriculture.
“These are emotional issues,” Daniels said. “But when you can give data to a farmer
on his farm that either shows him something he needs to correct, or verifies that
what he’s doing is good stewardship, that’s powerful stuff for that farmer. It naturally
invites him t become an educator of his neighbor farms… many of these farmers will
speak at state, regional and national conferences. And the Discovery Farms project
also provides a tremendous educational platform for farmers’ involvement in solutions.
I don’t think I can overstate how important that is to this program.”
Daniels estimates it costs about $70,000 in initial equipment investment for each
farm participating in the program, and about $30,000 for sample collection and analysis
per farm each year thereafter. The vast majority of the funding comes in the forms
of grants and donations from a wide range of partners, including the federal Natural
Resources Conservation Service, the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission, the Arkansas
Association of Conservation Districts and others.
Daniels said the project will soon begin taking a closer look at soil health, in addition
to studying water quality and quantity associated with farms in the program. He said
that the program recently received more than $900 in grants from the NRCS, which will
be used to study soil health, including the establishment of “satellite demonstration”
plots throughout Arkansas’s Delta District.
To learn about the Discovery Farms project, contact your local Cooperative Extension
Service agent or visit www.uaex.uada.edu.
About the Division of Agriculture
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen
agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption
of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative
Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work
within the nation’s historic land grant education system.
The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas
System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension
and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex,
gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital
or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and
is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
# # #
By Mary HightowerThe Cooperative Extension ServiceU of A System Division of Agriculture
Media Contact: Mary HightowerDir. of Communication ServicesU of A Division of AgricultureCooperative Extension Service(501) firstname.lastname@example.org