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USDA invests $10 million in Ohio State led team to accelerate adoption of climate smart agricultural practices

June 28, 2024
Farm field

Five-year project funded by USDA works with farmers ‘From the Ground Up’

A transdisciplinary team of researchers, educators, and extension experts led by The Ohio State University has received a $10 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to advance and co-create solutions to climate resilience of farmers in the Midwest.

In the US, advancements in specialized farming methods for crops and livestock have boosted efficiency and productivity. However, these improvements come with drawbacks like declines in soil health and organic matter, water quality challenges, loss of biodiversity, and increased vulnerability to extreme weather events.

New climate-smart agricultural practices (CSAPs) have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, enhance carbon storage, improve resilience to climate change, and ensure the viability of farms. However, traditional top-down approaches to boost adoption have been slow. This project focuses on working with farmers ‘From the Ground Up’ to overcome barriers and find innovative approaches that can accelerate their use on Midwest farms.Douglas Jackson-Smith

“This is an unprecedented investment by the USDA in a farmer-led response to address water quality and carbon sequestration challenges in agriculture,” said Douglas Jackson-Smith, project lead, professor, and Kellogg Chair of Agroecosystem Management in The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES). “We’ll be engaging farmers in Ohio and Missouri, major farm states with different natural environments where the impacts of climate variability on CSAP performance can be compared across time and space.” The project is funded through USDA’s flagship Sustainable Agricultural Systems program.

“At our core, we value the discovery, translation, and sharing of knowledge toward impactful outcomes,” said Cathann A. Kress, vice president of agricultural administration and dean of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES). “This transformative investment by USDA allows us to cultivate enduring partnerships and advance new collaborations with farmers in Ohio and the Midwest, driving innovation to support the resilience and viability of agriculture within its ecosystems.”

In addition to empowering farmers to lead the design and innovation of practical approaches to climate-smart farming, the project will provide opportunities to train the next generation of students in the use of on-farm research and community stakeholder collaborations as strategies to address future farming system challenges.

“With this investment we will spur innovation clusters where farmers themselves identify and overcome logistical, agronomic, and economic barriers that make it difficult for them to use conservation practices,” Jackson-Smith said. “We believe farmer leadership through collaborative on-farm research and peer-to-peer learning networks are key to finding realistic solutions that really work on the farm.”

Led by The Ohio State University, the project will involve close partnerships with researchers, extension staff, and students at Central State University, the University of Missouri, Lincoln University Missouri, and Solutions from the Land.