Recently, Rebecca Logsdon, Margaret McCahon-Kalcic, and Elizabeth Trybula received a grant from the North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (NCR-SARE) graduate student grant competition. Their project, “Engaging Farmers to Improve Communication and Model Representation of Agricultural Ecosystem Services,” marks the first time the program has awarded the funds to a group of students, rather than individual graduate students.
Their Proposal Abstract:
Ecosystem services, or the benefits society receives from ecosystems, are quite sensitive to changing land use. In the US Midwest, many services have been lost, or traded, for the single service of food production. While food (and increasingly, energy) production are critical for humans, it may be possible to maintain and even increase farm profitability while protecting vulnerable ecosystem services. Yet producers, who have the most control over land management practices and the greatest effect on ecosystem services, may not understand the services or the opportunities for profitability that are and will increasingly become available to them. Therefore, this work seeks to gain insight into the current knowledge of farmers in Indiana, as well as their willingness to change their land management decisions to improve these services. The three major goals of this work include: 1) evaluating current farmer understanding of ecosystem services on their land, 2) educating farmers about ecosystem services so they are prepared to take advantage of current and future ecosystem markets to improve environmental impacts and profitability, 3) relating this valuable knowledge to our own modeling of best management practices, perennial biofuel crops, and quantifying ecosystem services. We will conduct surveys and focus groups with farmers in a number of watersheds where collaborative work is already taking place. We will seek to understand current farmers’ knowledge of ecosystem services, the potential hindrances that prevent farmers from taking advantage of current programs that pay them to adopt best management practices, and methods for effectively conveying relevant ecosystem services and land management scenarios to farmers and modelers.
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