District Activities:


Hoosier Chapter Soil & Water Conservation Society Announces the 2016 Conservation Scholarship

Below is the application for the scholarship, for Indiana college students.

Farmer Receives Award for River Friendly Farmer Recognition

In a ceremony to coincide with Farmers' Day at the 2016 Indiana State Fair, fifty-nine River-Friendly Farmers were recognized by the Indiana Association of of Soil and Water Conservation Districts (IASWCD) for the work they do to protect Indiana's natural resources. Dan Gumz of North Judson was one of Starke County's recipients of the award

Students to Raft the Tippecanoe River for the 23rd Year

This year, approximately 600 students and teachers from 14 northern Indiana high schools will be participating in the Arrow Head Country RC&D River Expedition Program to be held September 3,4,5,13,14 and 15. The program is sponsored by the Education Committee of the RC&D and supported by Soil and Water Conservation Districts in Starke, Cass, Jasper, Kosciusko, Marshall, Miami, Newton, Pulaski and White Counties.>/p>

Students raft a three-mile section of the Tippecanoe River as it flows through the Tippecanoe River State Park in Pulaski County. They are assigned to raft teams for the voyage and work as a team throughout the day.

The day begins with an interactive lesson on watershed. Students are then fitted with life jackets, then grab a paddle for the downstream adventure.

Raft instructors are assigned to each raft and share information about the river and its watershed while on the river. Plant species are identified, soils are discussed, potential problems and conservation practiced are pointed out, and everyone is watchful for birds and animals.

Stops are also made along the river, where students learn about forested riparian areas, river otters and freshwater mussels. They conduct chemical water tests and complete a biological assessment of the river based on macro-invertebrates that they netted.

This program is offered to area high school students every year in September. For additional information or to be placed on the mailing list for next year's trip, please contact the Starke County SWCD office. Knox and North Judson High Schools will be attending the trip this year.

River Friendly Farmer Awards

Since 1999, key conservation and agricultural organizations have sponsored the River Friendly Farmer (RFF) Program. The statewide initiative recognizes farmers, who through good production managment practices helps keep Indiana's rivers, lakes and streams clean.

Annually, each county Soil and Water Conservation District may nominate up to two farmers who do an outstanding job of protecting their rivers, lakes and streams through their every day conservation managment practices on the farm.

This year Starke County SWCD is nominating Brad and Todd Lawrence of Lawrence Bros Farms and Dan Gumz of Richard Gumz Farms, LLC for this award.

Starke County/Marshall County SWCD Raingarden Workshop

A Raingarden Workshop will be held on Saturday, July 30 from 9 a.m. - 11 a.m. Eastern Time at the Moontree Studios in Donaldson. This workshop is to teach the fundamentals of raingardens. Speakers include Kara Salazar and John Orick from Purdue University Extension and Matthew Linn, Senior Staff Scientist from Cardno Inc. The workshop includes a tour of the grounds to see multiple raingardens of various sizes and functions. There is no cost to attend the workshop, but reservations are required. Please contact Andrea Surma at andrea.surma@in.nacdnet.net or 574-772-3066x3 to reserve your spot. All participants will receive a copy of Rusty Schmidt's "The Blue Thumb Guide to Raingardens-Design and Installation For Homeowners in the Upper Midwest". Starke, Marshall and St. Joseph County SWCDs have funds available to help you install your own raingarden! contact our office for more information.

Regional Envirothon Held

Once again, the district sponsored two Knox High School teams to compete at the 2016 Envirothon. This contest is open to all Indiana high schools or organizations. Each team consists of five students, grades 9-12.

The Envirothon promotes environmental education to high school students. It's an exciting, fun way for students to learn about the environment and the issues facing current and future generations.

At the completion of each contest, students are tested on five subjects: soils/land use, aquatic ecology, wildlife, forestry, and a current environmental issue, which changes each year.

Knox Team #1 placed 2nd at the regional contest, so they advanced to the State Contest. The Starke County SWCD covered the registration fees for both the regional and state contest, as well as the cost of fuel to both contests.

Knox 2nd Place Team

Annual Meeting Held February 3rd

The district's 53rd annual meeting was held on February 3rd at Knox United Methodist Church and hosted approximately 60 people. Larry Jernas was elected as supervisor and Fred Whitford from Purdue University was the speaker. Larry Wickert and Todd Redlin received the River Friendly Farmer award.

Julie Morris, ISDA, gives the oath office to Brad Lawrence, Appointed Supervisor and Larry Jernas, Elected Supervisor

Marilyn & Larry Wickert receive the River Friendly Farmer Award from Larry Jernas

Larry Jernas presents the River Friendly Farmer Award to Todd Redlin.

The District Receives 2 Grants for Conservation Projects

The Indiana State Department of Agriculture and the State Soil Conservation Board reviewed grant applications submitted by local Soil and Water Conservation Districts. Starke County partnered with Marshall and St. Joseph counties in the grant application process. Two grants of $75-thousand each were awarded to the group.

Grant funds will be used over the course of three years for projects that hope to educate local communities prior to implementation. According Starke County SWCD Coordinator Andrea Surma, the first grant would establish rain gardens in each of the three counties.

Under the plan, floodwater would be diverted into the rain garden, otherwise described as a depression near downspouts or other water intensive areas, and be used to water native plants and flowers.

Surma says the first two years of the grant would be used for education and bringing speakers to all three counties to explain the benefits of the projects before implementing the gardens in all three counties.

The second grant will work to establish incentives for farmers attempting cover crops for the first time. A similar process would be followed, attempting to provide educational opportunities before offering the incentives through the Conservation Reserve Program. For more information, please contact the district office at 574-772-3066, ext. 3

3rd Grade Sandhill Crane Field Day Held at Jasper-Pulaski

Approximately 60 3rd graders from North Judson-San Pierre took a day on October October 14th to learn about Sandhill Cranes at the Jasper Pulaski Fish & Wildlife Area Crane Tower area. Students were rotated to sessions on sandhill cranes, recycling, sandhill crane bones and a nature walk.

Barb Rausch speaks to a group about cranes.

Students look at cranes on the Sandhill Crane observation deck.

Colleen Asher, Starke County Environmental Waste, talks to students about recycling.

Tom Rausch gives a talk on Sandhill Crane bones.

Indiana NRCS Accepting Applications for Easement Program

Indianapolis, IN, April 1, 2015 – State Conservationist Jane Hardisty announced today that Indiana's USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is making available over $2.9 million in financial and technical assistance through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP). NRCS will accept ACEP applications to help productive farms remain in agriculture and to protect Indiana's critical wetlands and grasslands, home to diverse wildlife and plant species. Private landowners, tribes, and other eligible entities must submit applications for the current funding pool on or before May 15, 2015
"Conservation easements are an important tool to help landowners and partners achieve their goals to protect their land for future generations," Hardisty said. "NRCS helps guide landowners throughout the easement process. We provide technical expertise, conservation planning and financial assistance."

The 2014 Farm Bill consolidated three previous conservation easement programs into ACEP to make it easier for landowners to fully benefit from conservation initiatives. NRCS easement programs have been a critical tool in recent years for advancing conservation on private lands. In FY 2014, Indiana NRCS used $3.1 million in ACEP funding to enroll 865 acres of farmland, grassland and wetlands in new easements. According to Hardisty over 76,000 acres in the state have been enrolled in conservation easements through NRCS.

ACEP's agricultural land easements not only protect the long-term viability of the nation's food supply by preventing conversion of productive working lands to non-agricultural uses, but they also support environmental quality, historic preservation, wildlife habitat and protection of open space. State and local governments, not for profits and Indian tribes that have farmland or grassland protection programs are eligible to partner with NRCS to purchase conservation easements. A key change under the new agricultural land easement component is the new "grasslands of special environmental significance" that will protect high-quality grasslands that are under threat of conversion to cropping, urban development and other non-grazing uses.

Wetland reserve easements allow landowners to successfully enhance and protect habitat for wildlife on their land, reduce impacts from flooding, recharge groundwater and provide outdoor recreational and educational opportunities. NRCS provides technical and financial assistance directly to eligible landowners to restore, protect and enhance wetlands through a permanent or 30-year easement. Tribal landowners also have the option of enrolling in 30-year contracts.

ACEP applications may be submitted at any time to NRCS; however, applications for the current funding round must be submitted on or before May 15, 2015.

To learn about ACEP and other technical and financial assistance available through Indiana NRCS conservation programs, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted or contact your District Conservationist http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/in/contact/local/.

For more information about easements in Indiana, visit: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/in/programs/easements/


Jane Hardisty, State Conservationist, 317.295.5801 (jane.hardisty@in.usda.gov)
Gerald Roach, Assistant State Conservationist, 317.295.5820 (jerry.roach@in.usda.gov)
Rebecca Fletcher, State Public Affairs Specialist, 317.295.5825 (rebecca.fletcher@in.usda.gov)

The District is Offering Grants for New Filter Strips and Cover Crops

The district is currently offering ten (10) $500 grants, consisting of either (a) 1 acre of new filter strips ($500) or (b) $10 per acre of new cover crops up to $500. The grants are limited to one grant per person or entity (corporation, LLC, etc.). You can come into the office to sign up for these at any time and they are offered on a first come, first served basis.

Indiana NRCS Announces Deadline for EQIP Applications

Indianapolis, IN October 17, 2014 Jane Hardisty, State Conservationist for USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced today that December 19, 2014 will be the application deadline for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) in Indiana.

"You can sign up for EQIP, which includes the Great Lakes Basin Initiative (GLRI), National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI) and the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watershed Initiative (MRBI) at any time throughout the year, but to compete for the upcoming funding period, I encourage farmers with resource concerns to submit an application by the deadline." Hardisty explains.

Many applicants have shown interest in EQIP to help them improve soil health and address soil erosion, air and water quality, wildlife habitat, and other resource concerns on cropland, forestland, pastureland, and livestock areas. In addition to conservation practices like cover crops, no-till, manure storage structures, and fencing, EQIP provides funding for the development of plans, such as Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plans, Grazing Plans, Drainage Water Management Plans, and others.

"I want to remind farmers that a conservation plan must be developed for the area that is included in an EQIP contract," Hardisty said. "When farmers develop a conservation plan for their farm, it speeds up the application process and oftentimes practices are applied more strategically."

There are several EQIP initiatives included in the signup, where NRCS sets aside financial assistance for specific practices and producers. Examples include practices that improve on-farm energy, assist in the organic transition process, add wildlife habitat, and target certain practices such as seasonal high tunnels.

Indiana NRCS also sets aside approximately 10 percent of the Indiana EQIP financial assistance program for historically underserved participants, which include beginning farmers, socially disadvantage farmers, limited resource producers, and military veteran farmers and ranchers. If you are interested in learning more, definitions are located at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/people/outreach/slbfr.

Applications for the EQIP Landscape Initiatives, which include MRBI, GLRI, GLRI Phosphorus Initiative, and NWQI, are also due by December 19th. Funds for these water quality initiatives are targeted to particular watersheds in Indiana based on the priority resource concerns of those areas. Information about these programs and eligible watershed(s) can be found on the NRCS website at http://www.in.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/.

"Don't wait until the last minute to contact your local NRCS field office about signing up," Hardisty said. "Our NRCS district conservationists can help you with your conservation plan and the program application process."

You can locate your nearest USDA Service Center at our website http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/in/contact/local/. Farmers who have never worked with NRCS before and who want to make improvements to the land they own or lease can find out more on the Get Started with NRCS webpage http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detailfull/national/home/?cid=stelprdb1193811.

Jane Hardisty, State Conservationist, 317.295.5801 (jane.hardisty@in.usda.gov)
Gerald Roach, Assistant State Conservationist, 317.295.5820 (jerry.roach@in.usda.gov)
Rebecca Fletcher, State Public Affairs Specialist, 317.295.5825 (rebecca.fletcher@in.usda.gov)

Local Farmer Receives Statewide Award for Conservation Practices

Indianapolis, IN - Out of 61,000 farms in the state of Indiana, one local farms stood out from the crowd last week for the work they do to protect Indiana's natural resources.

Jim Koch was among fifty-nine farmers who received the River-Friendly Farmer award from the Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts (IASWCD) last Wednesday, August 13 at the Indiana State Fair.

The Starke Soil and Water Conservation District nominated Bob Koch for the award based upon his farm management practices that protect Indiana's rivers, lakes, and streams.

At the ceremony to congratulate the farmers were Indiana State Department of Agriculture Director Ted McKinney, President of Indiana Farm Bureau Don Villwock, and State Conservationist Jane Hardisty, and IASWCD President Jeff Meinders, among other leaders from the Indiana Conservation Partnership.

Funding to Improve Wildlife Habitat is Available to Indiana Landowners

Indianapolis, IN - April 16, 2014 - The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Indiana is accepting applications from landowners interested in establishing wildlife habitat through NRCS' Environmental Quality Incentives Program's (EQIP). The former Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) has been folded into the EQIP and funds will be available to target eligible applications containing a core set of wildlife habitat development practices.

State Conservationist Jane Hardisty encourages landowners to think about introducing or improving wildlife habitat on their land. "The benefits of these habitats reach well beyond their boundaries," said Hardisty. "Not only do these habitats provide ample food and shelter for wildlife but they also help filter and cleanse water; prevent flooding in local communities by holding water; and improve soil profiles."

Anyone interested in these voluntary programs should contact their local NRCS office. The previously announced EQIP application deadline of May 16, 2014 will also apply for applications that target wildlife habitat. Applications received by this deadline will be evaluated and considered for funding in this fiscal year. Applications received after this deadline will be considered in future rounds of funding.

EQIP is a key program to improve soil health and address soil erosion, air and water quality, wildlife habitat, and other resource concerns on cropland, forestland, pastureland, and livestock areas. Although the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program is now rolled into EQIP, the core mission and focus of these programs enables increased opportunities to address wildlife habitat resource concerns through EQIP.

For more information about the Environmental Quality Incentives Program visit our webpage: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/in/programs/financial/eqip/. To locate the NRCS office nearest you go to www.in.nrcs.usda.gov/contact/directory/field_offices.html


Contacts: Jane Hardisty, State Conservationist, 317.295.5801 (jane.hardisty@in.usda.gov) Roger Kult, Acting Assistant State Conservationist, 317.295.5820 (roger.kult@in.usda.gov) Rebecca Fletcher, State Public Affairs Specialist, 317.295.5825 (rebecca.fletcher@in.usda.gov)

State Conservationist Shares Important Farm Bill Information and Dates for Hoosier Farmers

Indianapolis, IN, April 4, 2014-We have a new Farm Bill and Jane Hardisty, State Conservationist with USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) wants farmers to know important information about the Conservation Title and what to expect here in Indiana over the next few months.

The 2014 Agricultural Act was signed by the president on February 7th and since that time USDA agencies have been busy writing rules and developing guidance. Information is now beginning to be released to states.

Nationally, the new bill provides $3.4 billion for conservation programs this fiscal year – $18.7 billion in conservation over the next five years.

According to Hardisty the new bill marks the first time in history that conservation is at the centerpiece. "This bill is a strong investment in the nation's agriculture and conservation effort, and here in Indiana NRCS and our conservation partners are in a great position to assist farmers who want to improve and sustain their land."

Hardisty explains that farmers will find many positive changes in the bill, including consolidation of several programs under the categories of financial assistance, easements, and partnerships. "Consolidation of programs gives NRCS an opportunity to streamline our administrative processes and reduce burden on the public and our field staff," she said.

For Indiana farmers, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) is a key program to improve soil health and address soil erosion, air and water quality, wildlife habitat, and other resource concerns on cropland, forestland, pastureland, and livestock areas. The former Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) is now rolled into EQIP and does not lose its intent to provide private landowners with opportunities to address wildlife habitat resource concerns.

The Conservation Stewardship Program (CS)) is an excellent opportunity for Hoosiers to improve land stewardship on their farm. The program encourages participants to address resource concerns in a comprehensive manner by improving, maintaining and managing existing conservation activities and undertaking additional conservation activities. Nationally, CSP is reauthorized to enroll 10 million acres annually. Indiana currently has 311,261 acres enrolled in CSP.

Landowners who have a long-term interest in protecting their land may participate in the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) which provides assistance to help conserve agricultural lands and wetlands. ACEP consolidates the former easement programs (Wetlands Reserve Program, Grassland Reserve Program, and Farm and Ranchland Protection Program), with the exception of Healthy Forest Reserve Program (HFRP). ACEP is divided into two categories, Agricultural Land Easements (ALE) and Wetland Reserve Enhancements (WRE).

ALE protects the agricultural use and conservation values of farmland. NRCS provides financial assistance to eligible partners for purchasing easements and those partners will work directly with farmers to permanently protect their working agricultural land. Partners may also protect grazing uses and related conservation values by conserving grassland, including pastureland.

Through WRE, NRCS will continue to help farmers and other landowners to protect, restore and enhance wetlands. WRE incorporates the purposes of the former Wetland Reserve Program (WRP).

The new Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) consolidates existing programs into one that will support projects that improve soil health, water quality, water quantity, air quality, and/or wildlife habitat in a specific area or region. Here in Indiana those programs include: Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative (CCPI), Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP), and Great Lakes Basin Program. With this new focus on regional conservation priorities NRCS will have the opportunity to work with partners to obtain additional technical assistance and target resources to areas of greatest environmental concern.

The Farm Bill re-links conservation compliance provisions to crop insurance premium subsidies. In addition to identifying crop insurance as a covered program, the Farm Bill defines special timelines and mitigation authority. NRCS also has a new opportunity to assist farmers with wetland conservation compliance issues on their farms by establishing mitigation banking opportunities for program participants.

Other changes include opportunities and incentives for beginning farmers, along with other historically underserved farmers which now includes military veterans and "no-year" funding, which provides the agency the opportunity to focus more directly on the conservation planning process and more deliberate obligation of funding

Hardisty says it is important for Hoosier farmers to be aware of key dates that are coming up. She also stresses that it is important to work with the local district conservationist and have a conservation plan in place before applying for any Farm Bill program.

Because the signing of the new farm bill occurred in February, Indiana’s previous announcement of the EQIP special initiatives signup deadline (February 21st) and ranking process was delayed. Below are key dates for rollout. (Please note, these dates are projected and subject to change.)

EQIP-Applications submitted by May 16, 2014 will be evaluated to be considered for funding in fiscal year 2014. Applications received after that date will be accepted and evaluated for future rounds of funding.

CSP - Applicants can expect to be notified of funding decisions by early June.

CSP - Contracts for 2010-01 and 2010-02 sign-ups will have an opportunity to re-enroll for an additional five years, under certain conditions and specified criteria. NRCS will begin implementing this option by September 30th.

ACEP - Applications for agricultural land easements will begin to be accepted by April 30, with applicants notified of funding/enrollment decisions by July 31, and contracts/agreements in August. Wetland Reserve Easement applications are currently being accepted. Funding decisions are also expected by July 31.

RCPP - A request for proposals will be issued in May, with proposal selection and agreements with partners is expected by September 30th.

For more information on conservation programs in the Farm Bill, visit your local district conservationist http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/in/contact/local/ or the Indiana NRCS website: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/in/programs/farmbill/.


Contacts: Jane Hardisty, State Conservationist, 317-295-5801, jane.hardisty@in.usda.gov Roger Kult, Acting Assistant State Conservationist, Programs, 317-295-5820, roger.kult@in.usda.gov Rebecca Fletcher, State Public Affairs Specialist, 317-295-5825, rebecca.fletcher@in.usda.gov

Indiana is on a Soil Health Kick

Indianapolis, IN, February 4, 2014—Indiana has been on a Soil Health kick! A few years ago, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Indiana Conservation Partnership introduced soil health principles into their conservation work with Hoosier landowners. Indiana is now considered a leader in soil health, and is sharing their lessons learned across the country.

The first lesson to share is clearly defining what is meant by soil health and NRCS State Conservationist Jane Hardisty is eager to provide some clarity. "When we talk about soil health we are talking about a fundamental shift in the way we think about and care for our soil."

Hardisty explains that soil is not just an inactive growing medium; it is alive and teeming with trillions of microorganisms and fungi that help to provide food, fiber and fuel for our planet. "When we manage the soil so that soil habitat is healthy, it also protects natural resources and results in high production levels," she said

According to NRCS, everyone can improve soil health regardless of their land use by using four key principles—minimize disturbance through no till, maximize soil cover, keep living roots growing as long as possible, and grow a variety of plants. When these principles are used together they build the soil's resiliency, which will reduce flooding; erosion; runoff containing excess nutrients; pesticides and herbicides; hold moisture during drought; and more.

Indiana is also sharing the lesson that managing for soil health is a 'systems approach'. Shannon Zezula is Indiana's State Resource Conservationist and is responsible for overseeing the agency's implementation of conservation practices. He said, "Soil health alone does not necessarily treat natural resource concerns. It's the continued use of a suite of soil health practices as part of a conservation cropping system that leads to long-term benefits."

A systems approach includes practices such as continuous no-till or strip till, cover crops, crop rotations, adaptive nutrient management, precision farming technology, and conservation buffers. These practices can be integrated into a profitable and sustainable system where each practice complements the other. Zezula said, "Applying a single management practice may slow the degradation of soil function but can rarely achieve the wide range of improvements and benefits that come with a systems approach.

Another key lesson being shared is that building soil health is a long-term process and includes these objectives-increasing organic matter, aggregate stability, water infiltration, and water-holding capacity while improving nutrient use efficiency and balancing and diversifying soil biology.

Barry Fisher, Indiana's Soil Health Specialist says, "I see regenerating soil health as a journey. In fact, in NRCS we use the term soil health more often as a verb instead of a noun." Fisher is considered a national leader in the field, and is being called on to help train hundreds of employees and farmers in the various soil health principles.

Fisher reminds farmers to be patient and committed when beginning the soil health journey. "When you begin to use the systems approach, it is important to know there is no end date. The important thing is to stay with it," said Fisher.

According to Fisher, the minute any one of the key elements of a conservation cropping system stop, the benefits begin to degrade. For instance, if the soil is tilled or cover crops are not planted, the organic matter and soil biology in that field will start to release more nutrients, carbon, etc. "Think of it this way, the benefits of a complete conservation cropping system exceeds the sum of the individual parts—those practices that make up the system," said Fisher.

Indiana farmers that have been on the journey are sharing their successes with other farmers, researchers and legislators across the state and across the nation. The National Association of Conservation Districts will bring their summer meeting to Indiana in 2014 to share Indiana's lessons learned with national leaders.

Because this is a new way of managing the land, Hardisty wants farmers to know NRCS and our conservation partners are here to help. "Making changes is never easy and it's important we provide assistance to farmers that helps put them on a path for success," she said. "We have trained staff throughout the state who can help and we are proud to be working with the Conservation Cropping Systems Initiative to provide training and mentoring to farmers."

For more information about soil health, contact your local USDA NRCS field office by visiting: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/in/contact/local/. The NRCS Soil Health webpage is located at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/soils/health/. Information about the Indiana Conservation Cropping Systems Initiative can be found at http://ccsin.iaswcd.org/.

NRCS Launches New Educational Resource Website

(Indianapolis, IN) August 20, 2013 - Just in time for the new school year, the nation's private lands conservation agency is releasing new online education resources. USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service is unveiling its revamped Teachers and Students webpage, home to a wealth of scholastic resources for youngsters and teachers. These tools help students learn about soil, water, air, plants and animals and how they help us sustain a healthy earth. "When we share the importance of conservation with youngsters, we're investing in our future," said Jane Hardisty, Indiana NRCS State Conservationist. "We hope by learning more about the basics and benefits of agricultural conservation, more youngsters will be motivated to seek careers in agriculture, conservation and related fields." The webpage's components include a variety of interactive and downloadable classroom activities. Young students will be entertained by fun NRCS characters like S.K. Worm, and older students will enjoy lesson plans that offer hands-on studies that promote field investigation and action. This collection of NRCS resources provides teachers standardized information created from sound scientific research in the field of environmental conservation. For more information, visit this new-and-improved site at: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/people/teachstudent/.


Contact Information:
Jane Hardisty, State Conservationist, 317.295.5801 (jane.hardisty@in.usda.gov)
Kris Vance, Public Affairs Specialist, 317.295.5822 (kris.vance@in.usda.gov)

Indiana's Top Conservation Challenge

Indianapolis, IN), July 8, 2013 - Improving the resiliency of farmland is the top conservation challenge in Indiana, says Jane Hardisty, State Conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Resiliency, she says, is the ability of farms to remain profitable through dry and wet periods, and to bounce back after drought, flooding or other natural catastrophe. The key to improving farmland resiliency is soil health. "A healthier soil-one that can absorb more water and retain nitrogen for plants to use-will help farmers bend, but not break when Mother Nature sends the too much rain or the not enough rain curve ball," Hardisty says.

One way to improve soil health is by building organic matter in the soil which improves both production and the natural resources ensuring farms will continue to produce food and fiber for generations to come.

"It truly is a win-win," says Hardisty.

Ways to Improve Soil Health

Barry Fisher, Indiana's Soil Health Specialist, says one of the top things you can do to improve cropland soil health is to adopt no-till. Long-term no-till has been shown to significantly increase the organic matter level in the soil.

"Tillage is incredibly destructive to the soil structure and to the soil ecosystem," said Fisher. "In healthy soil you have 50 percent air and water (which is made possible by the pore space in the soil) and 50 percent mineral and organic matter. But tillage collapses and destroys that structure, making the soil vulnerable to erosion and compaction," he said.

"Additionally, studies have shown that each tillage pass can release a half an inch of soil moisture from each acre. In short, tillage tends to limit the availability of water in the soil," Fisher said. "And that could prove very costly during those long, summer dry spells."

Fisher explains that using a diverse rotation of crops that produce lots of residue will also boost organic matter levels, as well as planting cover crops. Keeping live roots in the soil as long as possible each year will help support micro-organisms in the soils.

Not only does additional organic matter and living roots improve your soil's health, they protect it from the erosive and hammering energy of raindrops. The additional pore space increases infiltration capacity so water can move more quickly into the ground, reducing flooding downstream.

In these times of extreme weather, farmers can manage their natural resources and sustain productivity. For more information about improving your soil's resiliency and production, contact your local NRCS office at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/in/contact/local/.

Storms rolling in on an Indiana farm. Soil health conservation measures can help farms in bad weather. (Photo: NRCS, B. Fisher)

Brassicas cover crops, such as Rape seed shown here can be planted in late summer to early fall to improve resiliency of soils (Photo: NRCS, B. Fisher)


Jane Hardisty, State Conservationist, 317.295.5801 (jane.hardisty@in.usda.gov)

Barry Fisher, Indiana Soil Health Specialist, 317.295.5850 (barry.fisher@in.usda.gov)

Rebecca Fletcher, State Public Affairs Specialist, 317.295.5825 (rebecca.fletcher@in.usda.gov)

Equipment Available for Checking Uniformity of Irrigation Water Application

The Starke County SWCD has a supply of step in posts, ties and cups available for irrigators who wish to check their systems for uniformity of water application. There is a 2 week check out limit and a deposit of $100.00 is required. Upon return of the undamaged equipment, the $100.00 deposit will be refunded to the producer.

Uniform application of water is an important aspect of proper irrigation water management. The use of this equipment will give producers a general idea of whether or not water is being applied at the desired rates for each system which is checked.

Interested persons should contact the district office. The equipment is stored at an off site location near Knox.

Arrangements can be made for pickup at the off site location. Approximately 150 posts, ties and cups are available.

Cover Crop Field Day Held

The Starke and Pulaski County Soil & Water Conservation Districts held a cover crop field day on March 8 at the Shore Club in Bass Lake. 61 people attended to listen to Hans Kok, Indiana Conservation Cropping Systems Initiative Coordinator, Dave Robinson from Cisco Seeds, Jim Camberato, who discussed On-Farm research opportunities, and Jamie Scott. Lunch was provided by the Shore Club.

Hans Kok and Jamie Scott give talks at the Cover Crop Field Day

Knox High School Environmental Science Class Holds World Food Conference To Discuss Genetically Modified Foods

Students of teacher Marge Wood's Environmental Science Class held their first annual World Food Conference in which groups of students researched and then gave presentations on various questions concerning genetically modified foods. One of the questions was should genetically engineered food be labeled at the grocery store and why?

A Group of Knox HS Environmental Science Class Students