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Department Invests $993,000 in Innovative Soil Health and Agroforestry Practices

The Maryland Department of Agriculture has announced that 23 projects will receive grant funding totaling $993,000 through the Healthy Soils Competitive Fund. This pioneering grant program provides financial assistance to qualifying farms and organizations—both large and small—that adopt innovative conservation practices that benefit climate, soil, and water. 

“We are excited by the enthusiasm and creativity of Maryland farmers who participated in this program. In its second year, the Healthy Soils Competitive Fund saw a 50% increase in grant awards for innovative soil health and agroforestry practices,” said Maryland Department of Agriculture Secretary Kevin Atticks. “These practices ensure a brighter, more sustainable future for healthy food, cleaner waterways, and climate resilience.”  

Established in 2023, the Healthy Soils Competitive Fund provides winning applicants up to $50,000 to support three years of enhanced healthy soil and agroforestry practices. Grant recipients receive up to 40% of the funds upfront, with the remainder distributed annually following verification of progress. Innovative conservation practices supported by the fund in 2024 include:

  • Intensive cover cropping combined with alternative inputs to reduce the use of synthetic nutrients in row crops—5 projects

  • Equipment and field trials for reduced tillage in vegetable production systems—4 projects

  • Establishment of silvopasture systems, alley cropping, and windbreaks to provide shade and forage for grazing livestock—3 projects

  • On-farm composting system improvement and soil amendment trials—2 projects

  • Annual cover crops for improved forage in rotational grazing systems—2 projects

  • Conservation cover, hedgerow planting, and land resting in small intensive production systems—2 projects

  • Whole farm conservation practices for small-scale vegetable and cut flower production—2 projects

  • Enhanced Soil testing and soil health resource development for an urban farm network—1 project

  • Pasture establishment and rotational grazing—1 project

  • Removal of diseased ash trees and invasive species for re-establishment of a forest buffer with native trees and shrubs—1 project

Maryland’s Health Soils Competitive Fund was developed based on recommendations by the Soil Health Advisory Committee. Funding support is provided by the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund and the Moore-Miller administration’s support of the Climate Solutions Now Act. Farm size is not a consideration for grant approval. In the program’s second year, the department received 57 applications from farmers across the state, with 23 applicants selected for funding. In addition to the conservation practices listed above, grant awardees will share progress over the course of the grant term. 

Maryland’s Healthy Soils Competitive Fund accepts applications during its annual open enrollment, which takes place for approximately 8 weeks beginning in January.

Source : maryland.gov

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