Conservation practices such as cover crops and no-till can limit soil loss, reduce run-off, and provide economic advantages.
Tim Palmer is the first vice president of the National Association of Conservation Districts. He says they have results from a three-year study where corn and soybean farmers experimented with cover crops, and/or no-till. They saw favorable results.
"One is that even though it costs extra to put cover crops on, there was a return on investment from having them out there to the producer, up to $110 per acre extra profit for adopting, and that would be after the cost of the cover crop seed was taken out," says Palmer.
During the study, the farmers experimented with cover crops and no-till, and quantified the year-by-year changes in income they attributed to these practices compared to a pre-adoption baseline. Palmer says while planting costs increased about 38-dollars-per-acre, fertilizer costs decreased by as much as 50-dollars-per-acre, erosion repair decreased up to 16-dollars-per-acre, and yields increased by up to 76-dollars-per-acre.
Farmers who switch to these practices might see losses at first, so it’s wise to go slow and learn as much as you can before jumping in.
"I would start small, I would get used to what they’re doing. I would check with any type of group, blog, our own soil health champion network because they’ve tried a lot of different things," says Palmer. "Some of them have been mostly successful, some of them maybe not as successful as they wanted to be. And that makes a lot of difference."
Read more about the NACD's no-till study here