Ag Environment & Sustainability - Nutrient Management for Improved Water Quality

CCE Cayuga County, South Central NY Dairy and Field Crops Program, PRO-DAIRY, and the Nutrient Management Spear Program have a strong focus on helping farmers protect water quality and improve environmental outcomes. Recently, there has been increasing focus on agriculture’s role in water quality for the Finger Lakes, especially in the Owasco and Cayuga Lake watersheds, both of which are located within Cayuga County.

This internship would focus on three main projects as they relate to agriculture, environmental sustainability, and improved water quality:

  1. Tile drain water quality monitoring
  2. Soil carbon assessments
  3. North American Manure Expo workshops, tours, and promotion

In addition, the intern will work with CCE Cayuga and SCNY staff on general outreach/education to farmers and the public, as well as accompany them on normal field scouting, IPM trapping and monitoring. This will provide much-needed field assistance on three important projects and provide the intern with a well-rounded experience about the water quality issues today’s farmers are working with and the practices they use to protect water quality.

Roles and responsibilities 

The intern will work with the CCE supervisors, CALS extension faculty, crop consultants, and farmers to collect information on subsurface (tile) drainage water quality as part of an ongoing project to sample individual fields regularly and try to quantify the potential nutrient loading coming from typical farming systems in the area. They will also take soil samples for carbon, bulk density, and other parameters in partnership with a farmer who is working with sustainability efforts to utilize a protocol designed to compensate farmers for their climate and carbon mitigation. For the first time, the North American Manure Expo, a large national event focused on professionalism in nutrient management, will be held in New York on a farm in Cayuga County.  

The intern will assist PRO-DAIRY extension faculty in coordinating and delivering the educational components of this event, in cooperation with the NAME board and the local planning committee. This will include coordinating tours and four education tents that have multiple presentations throughout the expo. The week of the event they will also help with event logistics.  

The intern will also participate in regular fieldwork along with the CCE educators scouting fields for pests, weeds, and diseases and monitoring IPM traps for statewide monitoring programs.  This internship provides an outstanding opportunity for an agriculturalist-in-training to shadow leading extension professionals as they interact with producers, agribusiness, research specialists, and the general public. It will also provide them with the opportunity to collect field data, provide context and communicate results to stakeholders, while also learning how to coordinate and implement extension education programs.

Qualifications and previous coursework

This opportunity is available to non-graduating students in Cornell University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

  • A strong interest in production agriculture is essential
  • Coursework and/or practical experience in field crop production, environmental science, soil science, nutrient management and manure management are preferred, but not required
  • Ability to communicate clearly and effectively with project partners and the public, a willingness to work hard, learn quickly, and professionally interact with farmers and other members of the agricultural community are essential for success in this position. 
  • The selected intern will be required to drive on behalf of the summer project and will need to have reliable transportation

Learning outcomes 

On-farm research and interacting with farmers is the key to identifying new, successful, and innovative management tools, and practices for decision making. By working with producers as well as CCE staff, the intern will learn about and gain skills in on-farm research. In addition, the intern will have the opportunity to participate and gain knowledge in all phases of field crop research (i.e. demonstration, training, planning, planting, treatment preparation, application, equipment calibration, field plot monitoring and maintenance, field events, sample collection, training material preparation, harvest, data entry and report generation). The intern will learn first-hand how to design and deliver educational programs that meet the needs of extension clientele about issues related to forage crop production, soil health, plant nutrition, and animal nutrition.