Economics of Soil Health Systems

Through a cooperative agreement with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), NACD and the Soil Health Institute (SHI) worked to assess, demonstrate and communicate the economic benefits of various soil health practices on a range of different operations.

To accomplish these goals, NACD and SHI interviewed 30 producers, including 25 NACD Soil Health Champions across the nation on the economics of soil health management systems (SHMS) across a range of different crop types, soil types, geographies, weather patterns, management practices and more. Click the StoryMap to browse the project participants based on geographic distribution. Individual fact sheets can be accessed on SHI’s Economics Webpage.

Access the Executive Summary here.

Executive Summary

Key findings from the soil health management systems research included:

  • On average, after implementing a SHMS, it cost producers $14/acre less to grow corn, $7/acre less to grow soybean, and $16/acre less to grow all other crops.
  • Adopting a SHMS not only reduced expenses, but also increased net farm income.
  • Across 29 farms, SHMS increased net farm income by an average of $65/acre.
  • Yield increases due to SHMS were reported for 42% of farms growing corn, 32% of farms growing soybean, and 35% of farms growing other crops.
  • Cover crop seed costs averaged $21/acre for corn, $16/acre for soybean, and $25/acre when used with other crops.
  • Four farms grazed cover crops, allowing them to increase revenue by an average of $26/acre.
  • Additional reported benefits of adopting SHMS included decreased erosion and soil compaction, earlier access to fields in wet years, and increased resilience to extreme weather, among other benefits.

At A Glance – Producer Summary


City, State NACD Region Crop Type Soil Type
Farm 1 Georgetown, DE Northeast corn, soybean, lima beans, poultry, flowers sandy loam
Farm 2 Keota, IA North Central corn, soybean silty clay loam
Farm 3 Poulan, GA Southeast corn, cotton, peanut, cattle, hogs clay loam
Farm 4 Twin Falls, ID Pacific corn, winter wheat, dried bean, alfalfa, barley silt loam
Farm 5 Tonkawa, OK South Central soybean, grain sorghum, winter wheat, cattle loam soil types
Farm 6 Madison, SD Northern Plains alfalfa, oats, soybean, corn, cattle silt loam
Farm 7 Laurel, DE Northeast corn, soybean, vegetables, watermelon, poultry sandy loam
Farm 8 Arcadia, IN North Central corn, soybean, hogs clay
Farm 9 Haxtun, CO Southwest winter wheat, rye, winter peas, chickpeas, oats, flax silt loam
Farm 10 Scotts Hill, TN Southeast corn, soybean silty clay loam
Farm 11 Athens, AL Southeast cotton, soybean, wheat sandy loam to clay
Farm 12 Pipestone, MN North Central corn, soybean, forages, cattle, alfalfa silty clay loam
Farm 13 Cashton, WI North Central corn, alfalfa, oats, dairy cows clay loam
Farm 14 Waseca, MN North Central corn, soybean, cattle, small grains silty clay loam
Farm 15 Reinbeck, IA Southeast corn, soybean silty clay loam
Farm 16 Elkmont, AL Southeast cotton, corn, soybean, winter wheat, broilers silt loam
Farm 17 Saint John, WA Pacific winter wheat, spring wheat, canola, alfalfa silt loam
Farm 18 Kingstree, SC Southeast corn, soybean sandy loam to fine sand
Farm 19 Pemberville, OH North Central corn, soybean, winter wheat, barley, hogs clay
Farm 20 Postville, IA North Central corn, soybean silty clay loam
Farm 21 Clayton, MI North Central corn, soybean, alfalfa, dairy cows, rye silty clay loam
Farm 22 Greenwood, MS Southeast soybean, cotton sandy loam to clay
Farm 23 Electra, TX South Central cotton, winter wheat, grain sorghum, canola, corn, sesame, cattle various soil types
Farm 24 Colusa, CA Pacific walnut orchard silty clay loam
Farm 25 Claypool, IN North Central corn, soybean, wheat silty loam to heavy clay
Farm 26 Charleston, MS Southeast soybean clay to sandy
Farm 27 Buhl, ID Pacific spring wheat, dried bean, corn, cattle, popcorn sandy and silt loam
Farm 28 Headland, AL Southeast cotton, peanut, wheat, oat, triticale, grass hay clay to sandy
Farm 29 Wasco, OR Pacific winter wheat, sunflower silt loam
Farm 30 Dillon, SC Southeast corn, soybean, yellow pea sandy loam

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Questions about this project? Please contact NACD Chief Program Officer Jen Nelligan.

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