Posted by Nancy McNiff, Strategic Communications Coordinator, FPAC Business Center in Conservation
Jan 05, 2022
USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provides extensive data on the Nation’s conservation program activities through its RCA Data Viewer. And now, data visualizations have been added to the tool, making the data easier to interpret, sort, and download.
Users can now graph, map, and download customized datasets that include information on acres receiving conservation, practices applied, land use, cropland soil erosion, and prime farmland. The tool also links to the full set of standard (tabular) RCA reports, which will continue to be available. Users can also link to research reports on the effect of conservation practices, including those from the Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP), a multi-agency effort to quantify the environmental effects of conservation practices and programs and show the results of our conservation dollars spent.
The RCA Data Viewer is named after the Soil and Water Resources Conservation Act (RCA) of 1977 that gives the USDA the authority, among other things, to appraise the status and trends of soil, water, and related resources on non-Federal land.
Other recent updates include data on practice enhancements and bundles supported by the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and soil health performance measures. Two cropland soil health performance measures were added. The Cropland Soil Health and Sustainability measure identifies land units where at least two practices are applied to improve soil health during a single year. Practices include crop rotation, no-till, reduced till, cover crops, and CSP enhancements and bundles. The Cropland Soil Health Management System measure identifies areas where a group of conservation practices and enhancements (or bundles) are applied that address four basic soil health principles: minimize disturbance, maximize soil cover, maximize biodiversity, and maximize the presence of living roots.
These updates, and now the addition of data visualizations, show how NRCS is continually striving to improve the RCA Data Viewer to make it more valuable and easier to use.