Case studies show big economic benefits of soil health practices

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Whitney Forman-Cook
Whitney-Forman-Cook@nacdnet.org
(202) 595-9139

CASE STUDIES SHOW BIG ECONOMIC BENEFITS
OF SOIL HEALTH PRACTICES

WASHINGTON, Aug. 29, 2017 – Soil health practices such as cover crops and no-till can result in an economic return of over $100 per acre, according to a set of case studies jointly released by the National Association of Conservation Districts and Datu Research, LLC.

Cover crops and no-till can limit soil loss, reduce run-off, enhance biodiversity, and more. Naturally, farmers who are considering adopting these practices are keen to know how they will affect their farm’s bottom line.

“These case studies quantify for producers, policy-makers, and researchers alike what the economic advantages of using no-till and cover crops are, and why it makes good sense for farmers to try them and for organizations like NACD to support and even incentivize their use,” said Jeremy Peters, NACD CEO. “We have loads of anecdotal data that says conservation practices benefit the land and producers’ pocketbooks, but now we have run the numbers and know how much.”

During the three-year study period, corn-soybean farmers experimented with cover crops and/or no-till, and quantified the year-by-year changes in income they attributed to these practices compared to a pre-adoption baseline. They found that while planting costs increased by up to $38 per acre:

  • Fertilizer costs decreased by up to $50 per acre
  • Erosion repair costs decreased by up to $16 per acre
  • Yields increased by up to $76 per acre

The studies also found that with adoption of these conservation practices, net farm income increased by up to $110 per acre. Included in the farmers’ calculations was the considerable time they spent attending workshops or searching the internet to learn about no-till or cover crop practices.

“That time turns out to be an excellent investment, when bottom lines start improving,” said Marcy Lowe, CEO of Datu Research, which conducted the case studies in partnership with NACD. “Farmers who switch to these practices can see losses at first. But thanks to these case study farmers who are generously sharing what they’ve learned, that learning curve will speed up for other farmers.”

One of the case study subjects, Michael Willis, farms 1,000 acres in northwestern Missouri with his family. His advice for future cover crop adopters is this: “Start small enough so it doesn’t freak you out, but large enough to matter.”

Datu Research and NACD intend to continue contributing to the scientific literature on the economic advantages of implementing conservation practices and systems on working lands. The case studies released today can be viewed and downloaded here and the parent report is available on request.

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About the National Association of Conservation Districts:

The National Association of Conservation Districts is the non-profit organization that represents the nation’s 3,000 conservation districts, their state and territory associations, and the 17,000 men and women who serve on their governing boards. For more than 70 years, local conservation districts have worked with cooperating landowners and managers of private working lands to help them plan and apply effective conservation practices. For more information about NACD, visit: www.nacdnet.org.

About Datu Research, LLC:

Datu Research is an international consulting firm that provides the right data to the leading foundations, NGOs and governments that are working to solve humanity’s most important challenges. For more information, visit www.daturesearch.com.

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