Conservation Innovation Grants – On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials

The Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) is announcing the availability of CIG On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials to stimulate the adoption and evaluation of innovative conservation approaches in partnership with agricultural producers. For 2023, applications will be accepted from eligible entities for projects addressing at least one of the following priorities: irrigation management technologies; feed management and enteric methane reduction; grazing lands; nutrient management; and soil health demonstration (SHD) trials. Up to $50 million is available for On-Farm Trials in 2023. Applications are due on October 30, 2023.

What is the purpose of this grant opportunity? The purpose of On-Farm Trials is to stimulate the evaluation and adoption of innovative conservation approaches in partnership with agricultural producers. For 2023, NRCS is implementing On-Farm Trials through eligible entities that will in turn work collaboratively with NRCS and agricultural producers to implement innovative approaches on private lands. On-Farm Trials supports the implementation of innovative approaches that have a positive conservation impact but which, for any number of reasons, have not yet been more widely adopted by producers.

On-Farm Trials funding is designed to provide technical assistance and incentive payments to producers to help compensate for risks associated with implementing new conservation practices, systems, and approaches. Evaluation is a key component of On-Farm Trials to ensure that environmental, financial, and social (to the extent possible) impacts of implementing innovative approaches are understood and can be used to inform future NRCS program, policy, and science activities.

The number of participating producers varies among On-Farm Trials projects, often reflecting the expense and complexity of the innovative approaches being implemented. Producer participants for past projects range from five to over a hundred. Single demonstration sites are not appropriate for On-Farm Trials, as projects need a sufficient number of sites for meaningful data collection and evaluation. Priority consideration will be given to projects that implement innovative conservation approaches applicable to a range of agricultural operation sizes and types.

What are the program priorities for 2023? Proposals may address more than one of the following priorities, but each proposal must clearly identify a primary priority. The primary priority selected by an applicant will determine which expert peer panel will review the application.

  1. Feeding Management and Enteric Methane Reduction: Building on what is known about advances in livestock feeding that reduce enteric methane emissions, on-farm trials seek to fill in knowledge gaps related to applied feeding management for enteric methane emissions reduction. This priority explores what is critical to ensure that producers effectively harness conservation technologies (especially feed management practices) that have moved beyond the research stage and are ready for implementation.
  2. Irrigation Water Management Technologies: NRCS seeks On-Farm Trials proposals to evaluate innovative water management systems that enhance a producer’s ability to monitor irrigation needs effectively, manage irrigation practices efficiently, and increase water savings by using precision technologies. Innovative irrigation systems should focus on balancing producer needs with conservation benefits.
  3. Nutrient Management: NRCS seeks On-Farm Trials applications that help producers achieve conservation benefits through efficient nutrient management directly addressing site risk for nutrient loss.
  4. Grazing Lands: NRCS seeks On-Farm Trials proposals to facilitate adopting new tools, technologies, and strategies that assist with improving and managing grazing lands in the United States at the ranch, farm, or urban interface scale. Innovative livestock grazing management practices used in conjunction with automated tools promote intensive grazing land management systems.
  5. Soil Health Demo Trials: Soil Health Demo (SHD) Trials supports on-farm demonstrations of Soil Health Management Systems (SHMS) and production systems being transitioned to a SHMS. A SHMS is a collection of management practices that focus on increasing soil carbon levels and improving soil health by addressing the soil health management principles of: (1) minimizing disturbance, (2) maximizing soil cover, (3) maximizing biodiversity, and (4) maximizing presence of living roots.

What entities are eligible to apply for CIG On-Farm Trials? 

Eligible entity types include the following:

  • city or township governments,
  • county governments,
  • for profit organizations other than small businesses,
  • Native American tribal governments (Federally recognized),
  • Native American tribal organizations (other than Federally recognized tribal governments),
  • nonprofits having a 501(c)(3) status with the IRS (other than institutions of higher education),
  • private institutions of higher education,
  • public and state-controlled institutions of higher education,
  • small businesses,
  • special district governments, and
  • state governments.

Individuals are not eligible applicants. Federal entities are not eligible applicants. Foreign entities are not eligible applicants. For-profit entities are eligible for On-Farm Trials if their primary business is related to agriculture. Nonprofit entities are eligible for On-Farm Trials if they have experience working with agricultural producers. Governmental organizations that are not federal entities are eligible. Eligible entities must have access to a sufficient number of producer participants to facilitate implementing On-Farm Trials of conservation practices and systems on private lands.

What are the anticipated award levels and match requirements for CIG On-Farm Trials? The funding floor for this opportunity is $250,000, and the funding ceiling is $5 million. There is no cost sharing or matching requirement for this opportunity, and there is no competitive advantage to applicants who voluntarily provide a match.

What is the award timeline? Applications are due on October 30, 2023. The agency anticipates making selections by January 15, 2024 and expects to execute awards by May 31, 2024; these dates are estimates and are subject to change.

The full Request for Concept Proposals can be found here.

Morrison has extensive experience writing successful applications for clients for USDA programs. For more information on this grant or how to apply with Morrison’s assistance, please contact the Morrison Grants Team by email at or call us at 530-893-4764.


We’ve worked with a wide variety of clients on a broad range of projects and are happy to discuss solutions that can best fit your needs.

Get in Touch