A series of soil health case studies have been produced through a partnership between American Farmland Trust (AFT) and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. Through a Conservation Innovation Grant, the collaborators have been able to provide detailed information about how various conservation practices can add value to farming systems. The two-page studies have been developed to assist growers make informed decisions about practices they may be considering.
“There’s a hesitation among a lot of farmers to invest time, money and equipment to adopt soil health practices because they don’t know the value,” said Paul Lum, California Project Manager for AFT. “We want to capture the economic value to the grower and encourage the grower with documentation, and study, and in-the-field evidence that a grower can invest equipment, time, and money in improving the soil and have a net return.”
A total of eight soil health case studies have been produced as part of the project called “Accelerating Soil Health Adoption by Quantifying Economic and Environmental Outcomes & Overcoming Barriers on Rented Lands.” The studies that have been conducted in California focus on the adoption of practices such as nutrient management, cover crop planting, compost application, and mulching. The case studies showed that the adoption of various soil health practices provided a net income per acre between $657 and $991 for the California farms.
“By adopting those practices and improving soil health, then the crops are healthier,” Lum noted. “Healthier soil equals healthier crops equals higher yield, greater production, greater vigor, longer lifespan if it’s a perennial crop.”
The soil health case studies from California feature almond production in Madera and Merced counties. While practices to improve soil health are anecdotally known to provide benefits to farming operations, the case studies provide concrete examples of just how beneficial those practices can be. The hope is that the studies will provide the necessary encouragement for growers to adopt more soil health practices. “We’re demonstrating clear benefits and we are publishing these studies, getting them out to the public and getting these into the hands of growers and ag organizations,” Lum explained.