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Ohio State to Lead $10 Million Effort to Accelerate Climate-Smart Farm Solutions

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 United States, advancements in specialized farming methods for crops and livestock have boosted efficiency and productivity. However, these improvements have drawbacks such as 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.

“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 holder of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation Endowed Chair in Agricultural Ecosystems 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, Ohio State vice president of agricultural administration and CFAES dean. “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.”

Although led by Ohio State, the project will also 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.

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