As patrons of conservation agriculture in general and no-till farming specifically, naturally we seek out pertinent news and research efforts that support and augment our ongoing editorial conversations.

The National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) recently detailed how soil health practices, such as no-till and using cover crops, can result in an economic return of over $100 per acre. Naturally, this caught the attention of many folks in our office.

The research, conducted jointly with Datu Research, featured a 3-year study period where corn-soybean farmers experimented with cover crops and/or no-till.

Compared to the pre-adoption baseline, the study found that while planting costs increased by $38 per acre, fertilizer costs decreased by $50, erosion repair costs decreased by $16 and income derived from increased crop yields increased by $78 per acre.

Interestingly, the research even took into account the time growers took to attend workshops or search the Internet to learn more about no-till and cover crop practices.

As NACD CEO Jeremy Peters noted, their organization had reams of anecdotal data about these conservation benefits, but now they’ve run the numbers and know how much these practices affect farmers’ pocketbooks.

When it comes to the time and energy necessary to learn about and implement no-till and cover crop practices, it should be stressed that like any new investment, you need to be willing to do your homework if you expect that investment to pay dividends.

It was also energizing to see that in one of the research project’s case studies, the farmer involved gave a specific shout-out to No-Till Farmer. It seems Stan Kuhn, who no-tills near Effingham, Ill., specifically cited his subscription to No-Till Farmer (along with attending field days and farms shows) as helping him with his machinery and crop decisions back in the early 1990s.

Of course I’m somewhat “preaching to the choir” here. But the more organizations such as NACD spread the word about the benefits of no-till systems to the bottom line, the more conventional growers will see an incentive to change beyond just being good stewards of the soil.