Crops Insights News

4 new case studies show how soil health practices increase farm profitability


American Farmland Trust and NRCS are creating a library of on-farm examples for use by farmers and service providers


No matter the size of your machinery or the number of your acres, the true value of farmland is in its soil and the healthy processes that take place there. American Farmland Trust, which has done much to monitor and preserve the precious farmland in the U.S., has released four new Accelerating Soil Health case studies, building on four that were already released in summer 2019. The studies — which show that healthier soil on farmland brings economic benefits to farmers and environmental benefits to society — will assist farmers who are curious about soil health and technical service providers who want to help farmers adopt better practices.

From farmers, to retailers, to the supply chain and even presidential candidates, there is recognition that adopting soil health practices, like cover crops, no-till, strip-till, nutrient management, mulching and compost application, is critical to improving environmental outcomes on farms and orchards including better air and water quality and lower greenhouse gas emissions. Through AFT’s farmer outreach and education events, AFT has learned farmers believe the scientific evidence that soil health practices improve soil and water quality. Yet adoption has been low due to perceived financial risk of trying something new, the risk of investment on rented lands, and lack of information about how much the soil health practices will cost or benefit them. So, AFT set out to find what we call, “soil health successful farmers,” and with their permission conducted an economic analysis of their soil health journey.

These case studies were developed in partnership with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service under a Conservation Innovation Grant.

NRCS Chief Matthew Lohr says, “One of my top priorities as chief is to increase awareness and education of soil health practices, and these case studies provide concrete evidence that soil health management systems can lead to economic benefits for the producer.”

The four two-page case studies released today, which represent the second installment of work under the Accelerating Soil Health Adoption by Quantifying Economic and Environmental Outcomes & Overcoming Barriers on Rented Lands project, feature:

  • Tom and Dan Rogers, California almond growers who are implementing compost, mulching and nutrient management
  • Jim, Julie, and Josh Ifft, Illinois corn and soybean farmers implementing no-till and cover crops
  • Dan Lane, an Ohio corn and soybean farmer implementing strip-till with banded dry fertilizer and cover crops
  • John and Jim Macauley, New York beef and crop farmers implementing no-till, cover crops and nutrient management

Combined results from all eight case studies are featured on the Findings page of the project website and highlight yield and income benefits, input benefits, and environmental benefits.

Farmers across the country can reach out to their local NRCS and SWCD staff to help them implement soil health practices on their farm.

AFT will be hosting online webinars to offer trainings to fellow conservationists and farmers who want to learn how to conduct the partial budget economic analysis used in this project. Please email with your interest in the training webinars and we will email you the webinar details.

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