By KEVIN WALKER
LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) announced last month a number of fertilizer grant awards to Michigan State University and local organizations, six grants totaling $649,712.
“These grants are geared to expand nutrient management that optimizes plant production and/or environmental protection,” said Jim Johnson, director of the environmental stewardship division at MDARD. “The Fertilizer Research Committee paid special attention to those proposals, looking at innovative technology in agricultural operations that could be incorporated in the short term.”
He said one of the awardees, the Lenawee Conservation District (LCD), is working closely with the Michigan Agribusiness Assoc. on its project. The project, called Innovative approaches to expand the adoption of best management practices, was for $73,539, and is about examining agronomic practices that control water movement within farm fields.
The goal is to achieve better results compared to in-field modifications farmers currently use to nutrient applications. According to a summary of the project, management practices aimed at physical and biological improvements to the soil, including the use of cover crops and reduced tillage, are known to reduce the loss of nutrients in fields due to heavy rains.
According to the summary, however, for the most part farmers have not adopted these practices. The project team is hoping to gain a better understanding of why farmers aren't adopting best management practices (BMPs) through a series of producer workshops. The team is hoping to develop outreach strategies to help expand farmer adoption of BMPs.
Another awardee was the Holland, Mich.-based Outdoor Discovery Center, a not-for-profit group that focuses on education, conservation and the environment. It received a $70,100 award for its Project Clarity, a multiyear effort to help clean up Lake Macatawa.
“We just had to work out some details and have completed the grant contract,” said David Nyitray, chief operating officer at Outdoor Discovery Center. “We're really excited about it. We haven't participated in this grant program before, so we're really excited to be a part of it.”
The funds will be used to evaluate the effectiveness of iron slag filters for safely and significantly reducing nutrient runoff from representative agricultural fields in the Macatawa watershed. The money will be used specifically to perform sampling and analysis at each of the system sites for levels of phosphates, metals and hydrocarbons within the systems.
The research will be led by Alan Steinman of Grand Valley State University. At the end of the grant period, the Outdoor Discovery Center will distribute the research to project partners for future use across the Great Lakes Basin.
Lake Macatawa is located in Ottawa County. It's about six miles long, with a maximum width of 1.2 miles and a surface area of 1,700 acres. The lake and its watershed encompass 114,560 acres. The lake is the drowned river mouth of the Macatawa River.
Other grant recipients were the Michigan Bean Commission, for a project on updated nutrient use recommendations for dry bean production, for $44,600, as well as MSU, for a potato production project for $166,007; an edge-of-field nutrient runoff project for $200,000; and a project on benchmarking cornstalk nitrate, soil phosphorus and soil health attributes, for $95,466.
According to MDARD, the total investment for this work, including match investments by the applicants, will be $982,855.