Conservation Practices Prove Valuable Despite Early Challenges

Brian German Agri-Business, USDA-NRCS

The implementation of various conservation practices is continuing to prove to be a wise investment for growers. Individual cost studies are consistently showing that establishing processes for conservation can provide economic success for a farming operation. While employing various conservation methods can provide a multitude of benefits, it can be a challenge to get established.

Conservation Practices

“We’ve seen things go wrong, we’ve seen cover crops get planted but they couldn’t get the seed in deep enough and then it rained really hard and drowned it out,” said Priscilla Baker, Soil Conservationist with Natural Resources Conservation Service. “Also, sometimes the rain is unpredictable of course in California, so that affects results a lot.”

The initial process for incorporating conservation practices into a farming system can require a bit of trial and error. Applying proven methodologies will need to account for individual farming operations and make the necessary adaptations where appropriate. While the setup process can be challenging, the benefits can be substantial. “Just be persistent and get a lot of information before you start would be what I would recommend,” Baker explained.


A recent soil health case study breaks down the economic value of applying different approaches to conservation.  The report shows the multitude of benefits provided to an operation near Madera. Tom Rogers and his brother Dan grow almonds on 175 acres and have been early adopters of a variety of different conservation practices.

“I would say they were really on the forefront of water use efficiency and tracking their irrigation applications, monitoring their soil moisture, experimenting with different run-times for their irrigation system,” Baker noted. “They had a lot of data and were really on the forefront for irrigation efficiency.”

Applying conservation practices helped the operation to improve water infiltration, yield, and soil tilth. While some of the conservation approaches required some initial investment, the return appeared to far outweigh the cost. The study found that altogether the conservation practices deployed on the farm increased annual per-acre net income by nearly $1,000. The total net income annually increased by $173,345, for a total return on investment of 553 percent.

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Brian German

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Ag News Director, AgNet West