USDA-NRCS Michigan Newsletter

View as a webpage / Share

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

NRCS Michigan Conservation Notes  -  Jan/Feb 2022

State Conservationist's Message

NRCS Michigan State Conservationist Garry Lee

NRCS State Conservationist Garry Lee

The Biden-Harris administration continues to make addressing climate change a high priority of its agricultural policy. Already NRCS-Michigan has conducted a Climate Smart Agriculture Initiative with a strong response from our state’s farmers and forest owners. A sign-up was held in July with Michigan allocating all of its $1 million obligation for the pilot initiative, including 33 contracts in 25 counties.

Most recently, Agriculture Secretary Vilsack announced the USDA is investing $1 billion in partnerships to support America’s climate-smart farmers, ranchers, and forestland owners. The new Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities opportunity will finance pilot projects that create market opportunities for agricultural and forestry products that use climate-smart practices and include innovative, cost-effective ways to measure and verify greenhouse gas benefits.

USDA is now accepting project applications for fiscal year 2022 from qualified entities. A wide range of entities are eligible including governments, non-profit organizations, private businesses, higher education institutions both public and private, American Indian tribes, and others. Funding will be provided in two funding pools, through with April 8, 2022, for the first funding pool (proposals from $5 million to $100 million), and May 27, 2022, for the second funding pool (proposals from $250,000 to $4,999,999).


The 2022 growing season will present a major challenge to Michigan farmer in the form of higher prices for fuel and agrichemicals. There are a number of conservation practices that can help farmers reduce these costs while conserving natural resources. Conservation tillage provides obvious benefits by eliminating the cost in fuel of tillage before planting. Cover crops, particularly a cover crop containing legumes, can reduce the amount of fertilizer needed for the next crop. Precision fertilizer application combined with soil testing can also reduce fertilizer use with little or no loss in yields. Farmers who have not incorporated these practices may be able to receive financial assistance through NRCS conservation programs. Those already using these practices may be able to receive payments through the Conservation Stewardship Program to maintain these practices and to expand or refine their use on their operations.

Tribal Soil Climate Network

Installation of Gun Lake Tribe weather and climate station

Three locations in Michigan will soon be part of a national network monitoring soil and climate conditions in real time. They are part of the Tribal Soil Climate Analysis Network (TSCAN) and are located on sites chosen by the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi, Gun Lake, and Saginaw Chippewa American Indian Tribes.

TSCAN supports natural resource assessments and conservation activities through its network of automated climate monitoring and data collection sites. The network focuses on agricultural areas which are situated on Tribal lands in the United States.

After delays due to winter weather and the COVID-19 pandemic, NRCS staff from Areas 4 and 3 assisted with the installation of three weather stations as part of TSCAN in Isabella, Cass, and Allegan counties. Work was completed on November 9 through 12, and was led and organized by Jim Marshall (retired NRCS and current contract employee). Working alongside tribal staff, the weather station bases, and majority of the sensor and gauge instrumentation (including soil moisture and temperature sensors set at 4, 8, and 20 inches respectively) were installed. The weather stations are hoped to be fully functional by the end of the fiscal year as new batteries and modems have been ordered.

NRCS staff contributing to this effort included Area 4 resource soil scientists and natural resource specialists, MLRA soil survey staff from Grand Rapids and Flint, MI, and field office staff from Mount Pleasant, and Cassopolis.


Who Wants Prairie Strips?

Prairie strip planted at the Kellogg Biological Station.

Kellogg Biological Station - Michigan State University

Prairie strips planted into row crops have the potential to contribute a suite of ecosystem services, such as improved soil health, water quality, and wildlife habitat. When it comes to implementation, farmers have to weigh these environmental benefits as well as the economic cost of taking land out of production.

In a new study, released online by Land Economics, Michigan State University (MSU) researchers find that 20 percent of corn and soybean farmers in the Eastern Corn Belt are willing to convert 5 percent of their largest corn-soybean fields to prairie strips if paid the same average amount that USDA pays under the current Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). The study, authored by Zachary Luther, Scott Swinton, and Braeden Van Deynze, was conducted in the MSU Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics, where Swinton is a University Distinguished Professor, and Luther and Van Deynze were graduate students. Luther is now a Ph.D. student at Vanderbilt University, and Van Deynze is a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Washington.

“We found that a large swath of corn and soy cropland that is managed, could be converted to prairie strips under the appropriate payment schemes” said Luther who worked with Swinton and Van Deynze to analyze the 2018 survey experimental data. “This is an exciting result in an era where planting prairie strips is a new practice that is gaining increased attention by researchers and farmers alike.”

The study, funded by the National Science Foundation, was conducted in 2018 when prairie strips were added into MSU’s Kellogg Biological Station Long-Term Ecological Research (KBS LTER) as part of a cross-disciplinary project to understand the ecological benefits of prairie strips in Michigan farming systems and farmer adoption.

In order to understand the willingness of farmers to adopt prairie strips, Braeden Van Deynze worked with Swinton and sociologist Sandra Marquart-Pyatt to design and implement the survey. It was released in 20 different versions, each one offering the recipient farmer a different payment for planting prairie strips on their largest field.

Not only were on-farm environmental benefits considered, but farmers’ perceptions on the local impacts of prairie strips mattered in their decision to adopt the practice.

“From prior survey research, we knew that row-crop farmers were likely to be reticent about adopting prairie strips without compensation,” said Swinton.

In 2019, after the survey was completed, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Services Agency (FSA) introduced the Prairie Strip Conservation Practice (CP-43) into the 2018 Farm Bill. “That says that planting prairie strips could really scale up under a federal conservation program that already exists.” said Swinton.

This research serves as a link between ongoing research on the ecological benefits of planting prairie strips and the real-world farmers who decide whether to plant them. “These findings come at an opportune time, just as the KBS LTER is beginning research on the ecological and agronomic impacts of prairie strips through the new MiSTRIPS program, in collaboration with Iowa State. Our survey established a baseline willingness-to-adopt for regional farmers, setting up opportunities to track how KBS LTER findings might impact farmer adoption of this emerging practice in the future,” said Van Deynze.

For this research, Van Deynze (Ph.D.) and Luther (M.S.) both won Outstanding Thesis awards in 2020 from the MSU Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics.

New Employees

D Mackel

Dakota Mackel – Soil Conservationist, Jonesville

Last Position: Research Assistant Alcorn State Swine Production Facility
Hometown: Natchez, Miss.
Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Agricultural Business Management, Alcorn State University
Hobbies & Interests: Hunting, fishing, ranching, blacksmithing, riding horses, roping, and spending time with family and loved ones

R Nagelkirk

Rachael Nagelkirk - Civil Engineer, Grand Haven

Last Position: National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Engineer with Kent Conservation District
Hometown: St. Joseph
Education: B.S. Civil Engineering, Michigan Technological University
Family: Husband Austin, 2 huskies: Raven and Dex
Hobbies & Interests: Sharing meals with friends and family, hiking, volunteering, traveling

B Swanson

Brett Swanson – Soil Conservationist, Kingsford

Last Position: Soil Conservationist – Hampton, Iowa
Hometown: Kingsford
Education: B.S. in Natural Resources Planning with a Minor in Soil Science - University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point
Family: Two Golden Doodles and One Shih Tzu
Hobbies & Interests: Anything and everything outdoors related. Especially hiking, mountain biking, down-hill skiing, snowshoeing, kayaking, canoeing, etc. I also enjoy ‘Overlanding’ throughout the Midwest and exploring breathtaking camping spots. Lastly, I love all sports. I thoroughly enjoy rooting my Michigan Wolverines on whenever I can!

Other New Employees

Robert Fousek - Engineer, Gaylord
Peter Pelon - Biologist, Grand Rapids
Perez Peria Rosas - Soil Conservationist, Monroe
Kendra Zeman - Civil Engineer, Grand Rapids

Tree & Native Plant Sales


If you are thinking of planting trees or native plants this spring now is the time to check out your local conservation district. Your local conservation district is likely taking orders now for trees and plants that will be available for pick up in the spring. 

Offerings differ between districts, but can include native tree species, fruit trees, shrubs, and native grasses and flowers. Buying plants and trees from your local conservation district supports them financially and also helps you improve habitat on your land for pollinators and other wildlife.


Conservation Calendar

Upcoming Events


8 - What Does 2022 Have in Store for Michigan in Terms of Weather, 9 a.m. to 9:50, online event, for more information and to register go to

9 - Rock Snot 101 - March Conservation Series, 5:30 p.m., Kalkaska County Library - Kalkaska, for more information contact the conservation district at 231/258-3307 or the library at 231/258-9411

10 - 2022 Agriculture for Tomorrow Conference, 9:15 a.m. to 4:05 p.m., Bay de Noc Community College - Escanaba, for more information go to

10 - Land Management & Conservation Practices: Agrivoltaics - the Future of Farming?, noon to 1 p.m., virtual event via Zoom, for more information go to

11 - Sustainable Intensification of the Rural Landscape: Protecting Soil Health, Water Quality & Farm Profitability, 9 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., AgroLiquid Conference Center - St. Johns, for more information go to

16-19 - 18th Annual Michigan Family Farms Conference, virtual event, for more information go

16 - Seed Exchange - March Conservation Series, 5:30 p.m.,Kalkaska County Library - Kalkaska, for more information contact the conservation

16 - Building Resiliency Against Excess Water in a Changing Climate,2:25 p.m. to 3 p.m., virtual event via Zoom, for more information go to

17 - 2022 Great Lakes Forage & Grazing Conference, 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., AgroLiquids - St. Johns, for more information go to

21 - Get to Know Your Property with Open Source Websites, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., Garfield Township Hall - Fife Lake, for more information and to RSVP contact Forester Larry Czelusta at or 231/775‐7681 ext 3

21 - What is IPM and How do you do it?, noon to 1 p.m., virtural event via Zoom, for more information go to

23 - Changing Agriculture: An Insider's Perspective - March Conservation Series

24 - Key Wildlife Pests of Fruit and How to Promote and Protect Pollinators in Fruit Systems, noon to 1 p.m., virutal event via Zoom, for more information go to

30 - Berrien Conservation District - Conservation Open House, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., Countryside Academy - Benton Harbor, for more information call 269/471-9111 ext. 3

30 - Planting Trees and Improving Your Forest - March Conservation Series


12 - Cover Crop Workshop - Carbon Markets & Nutrient Value, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Agroliquid NC Research Station - St. Johns, to register email or call 989/640-2403

29 - Mid-Michigan Farm & Garden Show, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Gladwin Community Arena - Gladwin

Natural Resources Conservation Service - Michigan

State Office
3001 Coolidge Road, Suite 250
East Lansing, MI 48823

Phone: 517-324-5271

Michigan Field Office Directory