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E-M:/ Nature Conservancy Helps Farmers & Shiawassee River

Nature Conservancy News Release

Michigan Chapter: 101 East Grand River Lansing, MI 48906-4348 - Website: nature.org/michigan Email: michigan@tnc.org


Contact: Melissa Soule, Communications Director - (517) 316-2268 or msoule@tnc.org

Nature Conservancy Uses Innovative Agriculture Techniques to Protect Soil and Watershed

Local Farmers Encouraged to Try Conservancy's Plan of Conservation Tillage

OWOSSO, Mich. The Nature Conservancy is trying to change the way Shiawassee farmers grow corn.

The Conservancy recently received three grants to entice farmers to use conservation tillage techniques on their corn crops by implementing methods recommended by the Conservancy's Shiawassee River Conservation Tillage Project.

In conservation tillage, the amount of soil disturbance is minimal, resulting in reduced soil erosion, and improving soil health and quality by maintaining optimal levels of carbon in the soil.

"The long term benefits of conservation tillage have far-reaching implications," said Ken Algozin, Shiawassee River manager for the Michigan Chapter of The Nature Conservancy. "Reducing soil erosion means cleaner, healthier water systems and nutrient-rich soil for farmers."

The Conservation Tillage Project aids farmers in three different ways. First, the Conservancy will provide crop consultants to assist in fertilizer management and pH control. Second, The Conservancy will offer low-cost leasing and in some cases financial assistance in the purchase of certain equipment such as corn no-till planters, strip tillage tools and subsoilers. Finally, the Conservancy will fund a risk protection program that acts as an insurance policy during the time in which the tillage system has yet to achieve positive results.

"Farmers in the past have been reluctant to use conservation tillage in corn production because of the potential for economic loss from reduced yields during the transitional period as well as the cost of equipment needed to put conservation tillage into practice," Algozin said. "Recent research, however, has identified several new conservation tillage methods for corn production that can be very successful, and better for the environment."

The time necessary for conservation tillage methods to achieve profitable results is approximately four years. While the four years of potential economic loss may have driven farmers away from the technique in the past, The Nature Conservancy's risk protection plan eliminates the potential loss factor.

"We see the opportunity for the Shiawassee region to become a blueprint for corn production changes on a much larger scope," Algozin said. "This is truly one of the unique and innovative plans set forth in conservation in quite some time. By working together with farmers we can achieve a vision of long-term agricultural and environmental growth."

The Conservancy received a $28,000 grant from the Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network and a $32,000 grant from the Great Lakes Commission Soil Erosion and Sediment Control Program. In addition to these two grants, the Conservancy's Shiawassee River program has just received a $303,000 grant from Monsanto for the tillage project.

The mission of The Nature Conservancy is to preserve the plants, animals and natural communities that represent the diversity of life on Earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive. The Nature Conservancy counts at least 1 million members worldwide, including more than 32,000 in Michigan. The Conservancy and its members have protected more than 80 million acres on Earth, including more than 75,000 acres in Michigan. The Nature Conservancy embraces a non-confrontational, market-based approach for accomplishing its science-driven mission.

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Melissa Soule, APR, Communications Director
The Nature Conservancy-Michigan Chapter
101 E. Grand River, Lansing, MI 48906-4348
(517) 316-0300 * Direct to Melissa: (517) 316-2268
http://nature.org/michigan * Email: msoule@tnc.org
"Together with businesses, communities and
people like you, we preserve precious places
in Michigan and around the world. Forever."