Congressmen Bob Goodlatte announced today on a Rockingham County farm that researchers at Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences have been awarded more than $2.5 million to help improve the quality of local waterways and the Chesapeake Bay.

The funding is part of a $7.7 million initiative funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Chesapeake Bay Trust to help local organizations reduce nutrient pollution that enters local rivers and streams from agricultural and suburban lands and prevent it from reaching the bay.

Virginia Tech is the lead institution for three projects that will look at innovative ways to manage manure and poultry litter and to use market-based incentives to improve water quality through collaborative partnerships.

“The alternative use strategies developed by the Forum will help local farmers turn a product that may have formerly cost money to dispose into a revenue generating product. At the same time, the health of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries stands to benefit from the development of alternative uses for manure and litter. This is a win-win for our farmers and our environment. I applaud contributions of Virginia Tech to the Forum and look forward to hearing about the progress of this important project,” said Goodlatte.

“These projects are an example of the college’s commitment to help citizens protect and enhance the environment,” said Sharron Quisenberry, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “The research implemented will demonstrate how the agricultural industry and local communities can benefit from sound environmental and nutrient management practices to create economically viable solutions as well as marketable by-products, including bio-energy and organic fertilizers.”

The first project, a partnership of Virginia Tech, the Virginia Poultry Federation, the Dairy Foundation of Virginia, the Shenandoah Resource Conservation and Development Council, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, will be demonstrating a comprehensive and innovative approach to managing excess animal manure and poultry litter in the North River Watershed of the Shenandoah Valley. The project seeks to generate revenue from manure on poultry farms via bio-energy production, decrease the cost of manure transport through nutrient concentration technologies, and increase the markets for manure. Katharine Knowlton, associate professor of dairy science, will serve as the principal investigator for this project.

A second project, which involves Virginia Tech, West Virginia University, the Frederick-Winchester Service Authority, as well as federal, state, and local government and community interests, will use proven and innovative best management practices to accelerate nutrient reduction in the Opequon Creek Watershed. The project will encourage widespread adoption of practices to reduce nutrient runoff from urban and agricultural sources. Detailed monitoring of floodplain and pocket wetlands, water-quality swales, and fenced streams will determine the impact and cost-effectiveness of these practices. The project will result in a plan for the Frederick-Winchester Service Authority to obtain nutrient offset credits for wastewater treatment plan expansion. Conrad Heatwole, associate professor in biological systems engineering, is the principal investigator for this project.

Virginia Tech is also partnering with Virginia Commonwealth University and two oyster producers to demonstrate and assess the potential for commercial oyster production to be credited with water quality improvements under the Chesapeake Bay water quality trading and offset programs. Co-principal investigators, Kurt Stephenson, associate professor of agricultural and applied economics, and Bonnie Brown, associate professor of biological sciences at Virginia Commonwealth University, will provide scientifically based analysis of nutrient removal by cultivated oysters and examine the economic feasibility of using assimilation credits as a water quality management option.

More information about the Chesapeake Bay Targeted Watersheds Grant Program can be found on the web along with additional information about all the funded research projects .

Ranked 11th in agricultural research expenditures by the National Science Foundation, Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences offers students the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s leading agricultural scientists. The college’s comprehensive curriculum gives students a balanced education that ranges from food and fiber production to economics to human health. The college is a national leader in incorporating technology, biotechnology, computer applications, and other recent scientific advances into its teaching program.

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