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The UVM Extension Center for Sustainable Agriculture was honored to be among the 2014 recipients of this year’s USDA National Conservation Innovation Grants  directed to projects that will (according to the USDA press release) “help develop and demonstrate cutting-edge ideas to accelerate innovation in private lands conservation.”

Center Farming and Climate Change Coordinator Joshua Faulkner, Ph.D. described the importance of providing farmers with good information about how to address compacted soil as one that helps farms’ economic output and soil fertility while also protecting water quality.

“Soil compaction can be a significant yield-limitation and conservation concern. Compacted soils often result in poor drainage, increased runoff, reduced soil aeration, and decreased root penetration and subsequent plant-access to available soil moisture. The compaction problem is common on many farms, especially in cool, humid regions of the country with a relatively short growing season (like Vermont),” he described in his proposal.

Faulkner goes on, “Demonstrating user-friendly and inexpensive on-farm soil moisture monitoring, and its meaningfulness to compaction prevention, is needed by farmers working to improve soil health.”

The project is a collaboration between the UVM Extension Center for Sustainable Agriculture, UVM Extension Champlain Valley Crops & Soils Team, UVM Plant & Soil Science, and a group of Vermont farmers.

This project will continue preliminary research begun by the Center’s Pasture Program in conjunction with research from UVM’s Plant & Soil Science department, community partners, and five Vermont grass-based dairy farms.  The Addressing Pasture Compaction publication discusses the benefits and drawbacks of two approaches to soil compaction and is available for free download from the Center website:

Established in 1994, the UVM Center for Sustainable Agriculture provides timely information to Vermont communities and the UVM campus.   The Center cultivates partnerships, supports innovative research and practices, and informs policy to advance sustainable food and farming systems.  Learn more at