The University of Vermont Extension System (UVM-EXT) recently completed its participation with phase 2 of the Agronomy and Conservation Assistance Program (ACAP). The program’s focus remained concentrated on nutrient management planning and implementation of farm practices to reduce the loss of soil and nutrients. The UVM-EXT ACAP agronomists worked directly with farmers, focusing on small non-regulated farms, to increase implementation of water quality improvement practices and improve understanding and management around agricultural water quality issues.
Two Agronomy Outreach Professionals provided direct farmer technical assistance to farmers in the northern and central regions of the Lake Champlain watershed in Vermont. Technical assistance and outreach education provided to farmers by the UVM Agronomy Outreach Professionals and staff from July 2014 to September 2015 continued the objectives of the original Agronomy and Conservation Assistance Program which was initiated in 2011. The UVM-EXT ACAP agronomists were located in the Middlebury and St. Albans Extension offices and the project workload was coordinated with local UVM-EXT Agronomy faculty and support staff.
As a direct result of outreach and technical assistance provided by the UVM agronomists and support staff, a total of 239 conservation practices were implemented on 140 farms in the project area, reducing soil and nutrient runoff from 27,774 acres of cropland and associated livestock production facilities. Implementation of conservation practices by participating landowners included 12,311 acres of nutrient management plan development with 49 farms, about 2,255 acres of improved alternative manure management on 24 farms, 1,547 acres of conservation mulch tillage on 15 farms, 3,060 acres of no-till planting on 69 farms, 8,590 acres of cover crops on 69 farms and 6 other production facility or field practices installed.
A whole farm inventory was completed for forty (40) core participant farms using a Farm Practice Checklist to identify specific practices to focus on for each farm. A Farm Practice Inventory worksheet, developed for the original ACAP project, was used to track improvements made on the identified conservation practices to quantify the degree of improvements made. Evaluation of practice implementation was done using pre- and post- implementation scores for selected practices. The core farms implemented an average of 2.4 practices per farm in 2015 raising their overall beginning score of 3.4 for those practices to a final improved score of 1.8, based on a scale of 1 to 5, where 5 represents poor management and 1 represents excellent management.