Getting Non-Farming Landowners On-Board with No-Till and Cover Crops

When it comes to adopting no-till and cover crops, data from a recent Iowa State University survey shows significant differences between owned and rented cropland.

A roadblock to reducing erosion, runoff and nutrient leaching is a belief that investing in some of the more traditional conservation practices, such as waterways, buffer strips and sediment basins, leads to extra crop costs.

Data from the recent Iowa Farmland Ownership and Tenure study that’s been conducted by Iowa State University for 35 years shows 37% of Iowa’s farmland is owned by the families who work the ground. In addition, 53% of the state’s farmland is leased, 2% is custom farmed and 8% is enrolled in government CRP and CSP conservation programs.

More No-Till, More Covers

In 2017, some 31% of Iowa’s overall cropland was no-tilled, an increase from 27% in 2012. The survey data showed considerable regional variations, such as in the southwest area that has a high level of highly erodible ground where 56% of the ground is no-tilled. No-till’s acceptance is also likely higher on rented ground as growers see it as a way to trim costs.

The reasons given for not no-tilling were interesting. Some 12% of on-farm operators felt no-till was not suitable for their land while 46% of non-operators felt this way. Another 12% of operators felt no-till reduces yields while 22% of non-operators felt this was the case.

Across Iowa, cover crops were seeded in 2017 on only 4% of the state’s cropland. Cover crops were seeded…

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Lessiter frank

Frank Lessiter

Frank Lessiter has served as editor of No-Till Farmer since the publication was launched in November of 1972. Raised on a six-generation Michigan Centennial Farm, he has spent his entire career in agricultural journalism. Lessiter is a dairy science graduate from Michigan State University.

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