FY 2014 Conservation Innovation Grant National Awardee

FY 2014 Conservation Innovation Grant National Awardee

September 16, 2014

California Dairy Research Foundation (CA) $73,000

Improving Conservation Practice Adoption and Nutrient Management Plan Implementation through Utilization of Adapted Decision Support Tree eLearning Methods

California is home to 1.8 million dairy cattle, over 80 percent of which reside in the state's Central Valley, an area rich in agriculture and responsible for nearly 20 percent of the nation's milk supply. Central Valley dairy farms produce much of the forage necessary to feed their cows by utilizing manure nutrients to grow crops year-round. Cow manure is an important renewable resource used to fertilize crops, replenish soil nutrients and enhance soil quality.

Utilizing manure effectively is paramount to sustainable dairying and agriculture, but has been regulated since 2007. Regulatory requirements include the maintenance and implementation of both waste management and nutrient management plans.

The industry's regulatory and environmental success depends on individual dairy producer ability to identify and adopt conservation practices and implement superior nutrient management to protect scarce surface and ground water resources. Multiple potential challenges exist which may prevent full implementation of all aspects of nutrient management and available conservation practices within a given operation.

Barriers are most often site-specific and require individual assessment of current systems, equipment and practices to determine optimal farm solutions. This project will develop, field-test and demonstrate the use of an electronically available teaching and learning (eLearning) system as an innovative approach to conservation practice adoption and nutrient management implementation. A proven decision tree support system will be adapted into an eLearning format to enable individual farm nutrient management needs assessment.

Its guiding principles will be communicating scientifically-proven yet practical, cost-effective options at various nutrient management system critical control points (decision tree nodes) to assist producers in identifying site-specific solutions for full nutrient management plan implementation.