New studies put dollar signs on conservation practices

From the National Association of Wheat Growers

Cover crops and no-till soil health practices can reduce erosion and runoff, increase organic matter retention and enhance biodiversity. The National Association of Conservation Districts and Datu Research, LLC recently released a set of case studies detailing the economic advantage of adopting these practices. After adoption, the case studies found the net farm incomes had increased by up to $110 per acre. Although these studies focus on corn-soybean crop rotations in the Upper Mississippi River Basin (UMRB), these conservations practices can ultimately benefit the fertility and productivity of a wide range of agroecosystems.

Diaz Farm
The Diaz farm had been a no-till operation since its purchase; however, once erosion had become more prevalent, the Diaz family decided to invest in cover crops. After three years of investment, budgets detailed in the fourth and fifth years generated positive results.  By year four, Dan Diaz began receiving significant economic returns and the net change in income was $109.91 per acre by 2015.

Willis Farm
The Willis family had been practicing no-till farming since 1986; however, the family wanted to prevent erosion, generate additional organic build-up and increase water filtration. Their use of cover crops contributed to a net change in income ranging from $16.48 to $18.43 per acre in three of the four years. Additionally, yield improvements and increased soil stability were observed.

Moore Farm
The Moore family adopted no-till practices since 1988, which has improved the health of the soil and helped mitigate weather-related costs. By the third year of no-till practices, the Moore family observed improvements in soil health and costs saved in labor and erosion-related repairs.

Kuhns Family
When the Kuhns family observed poor soil conditions and performed regular erosion-related repairs in the 1990s, they decided to practice the idea of “work smarter, not harder.”  The transition to no-till farming took two years to develop and their economic increases ranged from $54.72 to $107.81 per acre above  the baseline. Although this required additional investments in expenses and termination, the economic and ecological improvements outweighed the costs.