Monday, November 27, 2023

New Report Shows Positive Impact Of Soil Health Management Systems In Delaware River Watershed

On November 27, the
National Association of Conservation Districts and the Soil Health Institute published a new report that shows the environmental and economic benefits of soil health management systems in the Delaware River Watershed

The study was supported by a grant from the William Penn Foundation.

“It is important for farmers to have access to real-world examples of soil health practices at work so they can make informed decisions for their own unique operations,” said Jeremy Peters, NACD Chief Executive Officer. “The equation is different for every farm, underscoring the importance of voluntary, incentive-based programs for conservation and the work of conservation districts nationwide to help producers implement practices that make sense on their land.”

The collaborative project assessed the economics of soil health management systems (SHMS) in farms of different sizes in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. 

NACD conducted interviews with three farmers who use no-till production and cover crops when growing corn, soybeans, and other crops to learn about their experiences after adopting these systems and assess the impact on net farm income, water quality, and the health of the surrounding watershed. 

SHI conducted a partial budget analysis comparing the costs and benefits before and after using the SHMS.

In New Jersey, producer Mitchell Jones increased profitability by decreasing costs of production for corn and soybean while increasing corn yield with no-till production and cover crops. 

Net farm income increased $22.13/acre for corn and $9.52/acre for soybean.

In Pennsylvania, the Hicks Brothers IV farm increased profitability by increasing soybean yield in a corn/soybean rotation with no-till production and cover crops. 

Net farm income increased $34.37/acre for the farm in a 50% corn and 50% soybean/wheat double crop rotation.

Also in Pennsylvania, Deerfoot Farm increased profitability by increasing soybean and wheat yields with no-till production and cover crops. 

Net farm income increased $63.21/acre for the farm in a soybean and wheat rotation.

“Results from these three farms provide further information to support farmers when weighing the costs and benefits of investing in soil health,” said Dr. Wayne Honeycutt, President and CEO of the Soil Health Institute. “Beyond increasing net farm income, these farmers also enhanced the resilience of their operations through soil health management, resulting in improved field access and consistent yields during drought conditions. These findings highlight the vital role of soil health in mitigating operational risks amid the growing challenges posed by more frequent and prolonged extreme weather events.”

While the surveyed farms have differences in terms of location, size, and crops, all three experienced positive soil health outcomes after implementing a SHMS. 

In addition to increases in net farm income, other benefits reported by the farmers include improved water infiltration, increased soil organic matter, reduced soil compaction and erosion, and increased resilience to drought stress.

“These three farms demonstrate how investing in soil health improves both bottom lines and the health of the Delaware River Watershed by reducing erosion and improving water quality,” said Stuart Clarke, Watershed Protection Program Director at the William Penn Foundation. “They are examples not only for us here in the Delaware River Watershed, but for others across the country, modeling how soil health management systems can benefit both business and the environment.”

Click Here for a copy of the Delaware Watershed Report.

For more information about the soil health management systems report, including video interviews with the farmers and fact sheets that provide more details about the budget analysis, please visit NACD’s Economics Of Oil Health Systems webpage..

[Posted: November 27, 2023]  PA Environment Digest

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