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Nine Step Conservation Planning Process

The Natural Resources Conservation Service uses a nine step planning process whenever it begins a project. The purpose of the steps is to develop and implement plans that protect, conserve, and enhance natural resources within a social and economic perspective. 

1 - Identify Problems and Opportunities

Everyone needs a reason to plan.  Planning can start with a problem, an opportunity, shared concerns, or a perceived threat. Initial opportunities and problems are first identified based on readily available information provided by the client(s). There may be information available through the County Conservation Districts or through a larger-scale conservation plan.  The Little River Salt Marsh Restoration Project is an excellent example of how this process worked on an area-wide scale, with multiple stakeholders and objectives. 

 

Step 1 - Problem Identification

Step 2 - Determining Objectives  

2 - Determine Objectives

During this step, the stakeholders identify their objectives.  A conservationist guides the process so that it includes both the stakeholder needs and values and the resource uses and on-site and off-site ecological protection. Objectives may need to be revised and modified as new information is learned later in the inventory and analysis stages. Objectives may not be finalized until Step 4 of the planning process.

3 - Inventory Resources

In this step, appropriate natural resource, economic and social information for the planning area is collected. The information will be used to further define the problems and opportunities. It will also be used throughout the entire process to define alternatives and to evaluate the plan. It is important that as much information as possible can be collected so that the plan will fit both the needs of the landowner and the natural resources. Inventories can range from a farmstead or small watershed all the way up to a complete inventory of resources for a state or the entire nation, such as with the NRCS National Resources Inventory or the Soil Survey Program.

 

 Step 3 - Inventory Resources

Step 4 - Analyze Resource Data  

4 - Analyze Resource Data 

Study the resource data and clearly define existing conditions for all of the natural resources, including limitations and potential for the desired use. This step is crucial to developing plans that will work for a landowner and their land. It also provides a clear understanding of the baseline conditions will help to judge how effective a project is after it has been put into place.

5 - Formulate Alternatives

The purpose of this step is to achieve the goals for the land, by solving all identified problems, taking advantage of opportunities, and meeting the social, economic, and environmental needs of the planning project. With NRCS conservation planning, we often can help landowners formulate alternatives based on cost-sharing programs that help offset the financial expense of implementing conservation practices.

 

Step 5 - Formulate Alternatives

Step 6 - Evaluate Alternatives  

6 - Evaluate Alternatives 

Evaluate the alternatives to determine their effectiveness in addressing the clients problems, opportunities and objectives. Attention must be given to those ecological values protected by law or executive order.

7 - Make Decisions

At this point the landowner chooses which project or plan will work best for their situation. The planner prepares the documentation. In the case of an areawide plan, public review and comment are obtained before a decision is reached.

 

Step 7 - Make Decisions

Step 8 - Implement the Plan  

8 - Implement the Plan  

Technical assistance is provided to help with the installation of adequate and properly-designed conservation practices. At this point in NRCS conservation planning, our conservation engineers step in and make designs based on our technical standards. Also, assistance is given in obtaining permits, land rights, surveys, final designs, and inspections for structural practices.  

9 - Evaluate the Plan

Conservation planning is an ongoing process, that continues long after the implementation of a conservation practice. By evaluating the effectiveness of a conservation plan or a practice within a plan, stakeholders can decide whether to continue with other aspects of an overall areawide plan.  

New Thoughts on Pre -Emergence Options in Cotton

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Clearly, after all the struggles in recent years controlling grass weeds, many are looking to change their weed management program. The most frequent question recently has been on the best pre emergent (PRE) options to more account for barnyardgrass, jungle rice and goosegrass.

In an attempt to do a better job on grass most have decided to move from the traditional Cotoran and/or Caparol. Rather many are trying to decide if herbicides such as Brake, Dual Magnum,  Prowl H20 or Warrant would be a better fit for their cotton.

Prowl H2O is by far the herbicide many have decided to go with to help improve their grass control.  I believe this is a good option as well. Unfortunately, shortages have been reported and it will not be an option for some. If you are able to use Prowl H20, please consider using at least a low rate of Cotoran to help with the Palmer control. The Treflan/Prowl resistant Palmer amaranth identified by Dr. Rhodes in the late 1990s is still present in some fields and Cotoran will help here.

Another good option is Brake. In our research a tankmix of Brake and Cotoran can provide good grass control. Remember Brake needs a good ½” of rainfall to become activated. As such it would often work more consistently applied with the burndown early PRE-plant where it would be more likely to catch a rain than PRE-applied. Another caveat with Brake is that for soils with higher clay content that 16 oz/A rate is too low. Even bumping up to 24 oz/A maybe not enough depending upon the clay content of the soil and the weed pressure.

Dual Magnum and Warrant are also labeled options. Dual Magnum will provide the most consistent grass control in most situations. The exception to this would be in a cover crop where often in our research Warrant provides better residual control. Of all the herbicides mentioned these two would have the highest probability of harming stand when used as a PRE. This can be mitigated to some extent by using a split-shot approach where ½ to 2/3 of the full rate is applied PRE and the rest early Post emergence around the typical thrips application window (1 to 2 lf).

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 Old Grasslands Show High Biodiversity and Conservation Value

Old grasslands show high biodiversity and conservation value

"The grass is always greener on the other side," as the saying goes, but in this case, it's more diverse. Researchers from Japan have discovered that old grasslands have higher plant diversity than new ones, and that grassland longevity can be an indicator of high conservation priority.

In a study published this month in Ecological Research online, researchers from the University of Tsukuba have revealed that the longer grasslands have been around, the higher their plant diversity, and the more likely they are to be of high conservation priority.

Grasslands can be classified as natural (existing in natural climatic conditions and disturbance systems) or seminatural (maintained by artificial disturbances such as pasturing, fire or mowing). Seminatural grasslands are ecosystems with rich biodiversity. Unfortunately, both types of grasslands are declining globally.

"There's an urgent need to identify grasslands of high conservation priority," says lead author of the study Taiki Inoue. "The results of a growing number of recent studies show that vegetation history affects current biological communities. The aim of our study was to evaluate whether the uninterrupted continuity of grasslands through time promotes biodiversity, and therefore can be an indicator of conservation priority."Old grasslands show high biodiversity and conservation value

 To do this, the researchers investigated in old (160–1000+ years) and new (52–70 years after deforestation) seminatural grasslands, as well as in forests, in highland areas of central Japan. Geographical information system (GIS) data were constructed using aerial photos and past maps to judge the vegetation history of these ecosystems.

"Old grasslands had the highest number of plant species, followed by new grasslands and forests," explains Professor Tanaka Kenta, senior author. "This pattern was much clearer in the number of native and dependent on grasslands, indicating the role of old grasslands as refuges for those species."

Old and new grasslands also differed in species composition, with the composition of new grasslands ranging between that of old grasslands and forests. This suggests that new grasslands continue to be affected by past forestation more than 52 years after deforestation. Old grasslands were found to have eleven indicator species, with none found in new grasslands, revealing that the plant community in old grasslands was unique.

"Our findings indicate that grasslands that have been around for a long time are where conservation effort should be focused," says Inoue.

Future studies investigating the effect of vegetation history on the current biodiversity of plant will improve understanding of how biological communities are formed, and will be key to allocating .