INDIANAPOLIS – May 26, 2022 – To improve water quality and wildlife habitat, Ducks Unlimited (DU) and its partners will use $387,000 in funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) to help farmers in Indiana and Michigan implement 75,000 acres of cover crops on private ag fields over the next four years.
The NFWF award is part of a larger $2.6 million program announced this week in partnership with ADM and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). This grant, under NFWF’s Midwest Cover Crop Initiative, aims to implement cover crops on 500,000 acres across Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan and Minnesota.
Cover crops are a crucial conservation practice that benefits wildlife habitat and water quality for communities. Historically, converting native habitat to intensively farmed row crops could result in soil erosion and a loss of soil health. In certain geographies, it could mean nutrient run-off into waterways and a loss of wildlife habitat. The nutrient run-off contributes to harmful algae blooms in the Great Lakes and the oxygen-depleted gulf hypoxia regions in the Gulf of Mexico.
Now, farmers are seeing new opportunities to plant cover crops to keep soil in place and reduce nutrient pollutants. However, according to the NRCS, cover crops are used on only 6% of cultivated land in the north-central United States. DU’s goal is to help farmers apply cover crop practices to improve soil health, reduce atmospheric greenhouse gases, and improve water resources while providing economic benefits to participating producers and maintaining benefits to wildlife.
Mark Flaspohler directs agriculture conservation efforts in DU’s Great Lakes/Atlantic Region.
“Indiana and Michigan are losing millions of tons of topsoil each year,” he said. “Cover crops promote sustainable agriculture, thereby protecting local, rural agricultural economies. To begin addressing soil health, the importance of promoting conservation on private agriculture lands cannot be overstated.”
The NFWF funding enables Ducks Unlimited to work with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Michigan Association of Conservation Districts, Michigan Farm Bureau, the Michigan and Indiana Natural Resource Conservation Service and ADM to provide 75,000 acres of cover crops. These partnerships will result in new staff to coordinate on-the-ground relationships with farmers.
DU’s goal is to increase the staff capacity needed to expand outreach to agriculture producers and landowners while also developing the partnerships needed to bridge the gap between conservation planning and on-the-ground implementation. Project activities will occur across all of Indiana and Michigan and are further targeted in the intensive agricultural watersheds of Saginaw Bay and the St. Joseph River, Michigan; and the Western Lake Erie Basin of Indiana and Michigan.
“DU recognizes the importance of this collaborative approach and has been expanding our wetland conservation mission across the Midwest to increase focus on private agricultural lands, soil health and water quality,” Flaspohler said.
Ducks Unlimited Inc. is the world's largest nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving North America's continually disappearing waterfowl habitats. Established in 1937, Ducks Unlimited has conserved more than 15 million acres thanks to contributions from more than a million supporters across the continent. Guided by science and dedicated to program efficiency, DU works toward the vision of wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever. For more information on our work, visit www.ducks.org.