Today’s edition of Dryland No-Tiller has an article about a research project that discusses potential barriers in getting farmers in Texas to adopt soil health practices.
Erin Kiella, an assistant research economist with Texas A&M University, and Dianna Bagnall, a research soil scientist with the Soil Health Institute, delved into why producers choose to adopt, or not adopt, soil conservation measures.
“Farmers are aware of the benefits of soil health,” they wrote. “However, the difficulty in quantifying soil health, diminishing availability of land that results in higher land prices, the time necessary to improve soil health, and the need to turn a profit often discourage farmers from adopting soil health promoting practices.
I encourage you to read the article and see if you can identify whether the scenarios and concerns they’re describing resemble your situation. If you lease a lot of land and can’t get long-term agreements, does that cause you to think twice about no-tilling it or planting cover crops?
A couple of focus groups on the topic, including adopters and non-adopters of soil health practices, cited a need for more land as they’ve seen populations in their counties skyrocket.
“I mean everybody in here, we’re hungry for land. We want more land,” said one farmer from the adopters’ group. Another said, “If (badly eroded land is) cheap enough (I) would buy it, because we’re dealing with urban growth.”
Let me ask this question: How much land is really necessary to be profitable? Especially if no-till practices can serve as a foundation for keeping fuel, labor and machinery expenses under control?
I’d have to disagree with the implication that soil health payoff is somehow difficult to quantify. This week at the National No-Tillage Conference it’s very apparent that soil health measurables have come a long way, and that no-till and cover crops make farms more productive and profitable. The tools are there — we just need to use them.