NRCS Adds Gypsum to List of Conservation Practices

Kelly MarshallAg Group, NRCS, Nutrient Management

nrcsEarlier this week, director of research for GYPSOIL Division of Beneficial Reuse Management, Ron Chamberlain explained the NRCS program to ag writers and broadcasters at Ag Media Summit.  The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has added gypsum to the list of conservation practices, making it possible for farmers in a growing number of states to receive financial assistance to amend soils with the product.

Wisconsin has recently joined Ohio, Indiana, Alabama and Michigan in adopting the new national Conservation Practice Standard, Amending Soil Properties with Gypsum Products Code 333.  The code was approved in June of 2015 with the purpose of improving soil health and surface water quality.  Each state’s program guidelines can be found in NRCS’ Field Office Technical Guide under each state’s Section IV.

In most cases, financial assistance for applying gypsum is available through conservation programs such as Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) or other water quality grant intiatives in at-risk watersheds and locations.

The Wisconsin NRCS has adopted the standard as an interim program for farmers and landowners in the Lower Fox River Basin, which includes all or parts of Brown, Calumet, Outagamie and Winnebago counties, says Chamberlain. The program is available through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative for phosphorus reduction priority watersheds. Farmers and landowners who are interested in this program should talk with their local NRCS staff.

“Wisconsin NRCS follows an integrated systems approach for amending soils with gypsum,” says Chamberlain. “A farmer who is no-tilling, seeding cover crops and applying gypsum may realize additional benefits.”

Gypsum is beneficial because it reduces phosphorus that otherwise binds to soil particles and ends up as runoff.  It also offers nutrient values of somewhere around 20 percent calcium and 16 percent sulfur and can help improve the physical qualities of soil, especially when it has a high clay content.