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2 projects in Puerto Rico to get $175K in conservation grants

Two projects in Puerto Rico will receive a combined $175,000 from the US Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, Caribbean Area Director, Luis Cruz-Arroyo announced.

The two projects selected to receive 2022 Conservation Innovation Grants focus on developing and demonstrating cutting-edge ideas to further advance innovation in resource conservation on private lands in the Caribbean area, he said.

The winners are:

Jesyka Meléndez for the project, “Restoring Impacted Soils via Regenerative Agriculture in Rural Puerto Rico: A Market-Scale Demonstration Farm” ($99,949). From September 2022 to 2025, the applicant will use no-till regenerative agricultural practices to restore highly impacted soils and recruit local small-scale farmers to learn about and apply the techniques on their farms. They aim to develop a demonstration no-till farm in eastern-central Puerto Rico using locally available materials and easily applied techniques.

Félix Rivera Montalvo for the project, “Ecosystem Services Validation of a Multispecies Canopy Coffee Agroforestry System” ($75,000). This project will provide needed data on the magnitude of the effects that multispecies tree canopies have on a coffee plantation and the extent of its total agricultural and ecological productivity. Their aim is to validate innovative water management techniques in the Caribbean to increase water infiltration and retention to mitigate extended drought and climate change.

The specific objectives are to establish baseline data models at the start of the project and measure environmental conditions in four sites, two with a multispecies canopy agroforestry system and two non-shade coffee production systems, for a period of 24 months. The applicant will analyze the collected data to determine measured fluctuations and corelate to each system’s productivity, habitability, and plant health conditions; augment collected data with other reference data from qualified sources as needed; and develop specific management recommendations and implementation models and protocols.

Grantees must work with producers and forestland owners to stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies related to agricultural production and participation in EQIP and related Farm Bill Programs.

“Through Conservation Innovation Grants, NRCS seeks projects that demonstrate, evaluate and quantify the effects of conservation practices, systems and strategies to protect and improve natural resources in the Caribbean Area,” said Cruz.

The 2022 Caribbean Conservation Innovation Grants focused on Interim practice validation for Infiltration ditches; water quality, specifically nutrient management, and sediment control; climate change; soil health management systems implementation trials; erosion management and monitoring on steep land; urban conservation soil test guidelines; and waste management.

Projects benefiting historically underserved producers were given special consideration. Conservation Innovation Grants results are anticipated to advance the foundation for sustainable agriculture and enable producers to conserve their natural resources.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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