TAPS Program Awarded USDA-NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant

TAPS Program Awarded USDA-NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant

The Testing Ag Performance Solutions (TAPS) program, which has grown steadily since its launch three years ago, continues to gain momentum, thanks in part to a recent $850,000 Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) award from USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). TAPS was one of 19 CIG projects to be awarded this year.

The CIG program is funding the future of agriculture and conservation through grants to organizations and universities that are developing the next generation of tools and technologies to boost conservation on agricultural lands. “We are funding innovation,” said NRCS Chief Matthew Lohr. “These projects are tackling some of our most critical challenges head on and will result in new science-based tools for our toolbox and cutting-edge systems we can use to help farmers and ranchers improve the health of their operations and protect our natural resources for the future.”

“TAPS is a highly interactive farm management competition that directly engages stakeholders in finding efficient and profitable ways to manage crop production,” said Daran Rudnick, project PI and TAPS team member. Since the initial launch of TAPS in 2017 at the University of Nebraska’s West Central Research, Extension and Education Center in North Platte, Nebraska, the program has expanded to include subsurface drip irrigated corn and sprinkler irrigated sorghum competitions in addition to the sprinkler irrigated corn competition. Also, a new TAPS program in cooperation with Oklahoma State University (OSU) hosted its first sprinkler irrigated corn competition in 2019 at OSU’s McCaull Research and Demonstration Farm near Eva, Oklahoma.

"The genius of the TAPS program is the fact that most of the time, it's not Extension or companies evaluating products and telling farmers about them. It's farmers engaged in evaluation. If something doesn't work right, they see it. Then we can work with service providers to make it better,” said Jason Warren, director of the OSU-TAPS program.

The TAPS team will use the CIG funding over the next three years to support ongoing development of the TAPS competitions in Nebraska and Oklahoma while expanding knowledge sharing and engagement by producers, Extension educators, technology companies and service providers in other states, including Colorado and Kansas.

The team associated with this project includes Rudnick, Dr. Matt Stockton, Chuck Burr, Dr. Chittaranjan Ray with the University of Nebraska; Dr. Warren, Dr. Saleh Taghvaeian, Dr. Brian Arnal from Oklahoma State University; Joel Schneekloth and Amy Kremen with Colorado State University; and Dr. Jonathan Aguilar from Kansas State University. Dr. Cody Creech and Jessica Groskopf from University of Nebraska are also part of the team on another project associated with TAPS.

To learn more about the TAPS program, or follow along as the CIG award assists the program over the next few years, visit the TAPS website and subscribe to the digital newsletter.