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Soil is the material found on the surface of the earth that is composed of organic and inorganic material. Soil varies due to its structure and composition. Learn about the different types of soil and soil structures in this video lesson.


Mother Nature is the ultimate boss on the prairie — and the boss seems pretty agitated these days. Weather events are more frequent, more extreme, and harder to predict than they used to be. 


Implementing conservation practices like nutrient optimization, crop rotation, conservation tillage, and cover crops can put money back in farmers’ pockets, according to a new report.

If farmers are willing to take a patient approach in determining which conversation practices are right for their operation, they could realize “a cascade of cost savings throughout their budgets” as well as improved soil health and reduced runoff, reads the report from the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) released today.

Although most farmers agree that conservation and sustainable farming practices are important, they also need to ensure that their farming operations remain profitable. With a limited number of growing seasons throughout a farmer’s lifetime, taking risks on new farming methodologies without knowing whether they’ll hit the minimum margins they need to keep the business afloat each year, can be too much risk for even the most progressive farmer to stomach.

For the report entitled Farm finance and conservation: How stewardship generates value for farmers, lenders, insurers and landowners, EDF, along with farm budgeting specialists AgKnowledge, teamed up with three Midwestern crop farmers to take a hard look at the numbers behind certain conservation practices like conservation tillage and crop rotation.

“The analysis of the impact of conservation adoption on farm budgets offers a reason to be optimistic,” states the report. “The farmers found that conservation management systems can produce lower costs than conventional management and, in some cases, increased or provided more resilient yields.”

There is also value to be gained from farmers’ financial partners, such as crop insurance providers, who could incorporate this added value into their decision-making process and have a financial interest in conservation, according to Maggie Monast, senior manager of Agricultural Sustainability at EDF.

Farmer-Led Research
Instead of EDF and AgKnowledge coming up with the quandary, it was a group of farmers interested in how conservation played into profits who sparked the original idea for the study.

“We have this group of farmers who advise us on our strategy and make sure that it is grounded while producing the environmental incomes that we want to see,” Monast told AgFunderNews. “The farmers actually came to us and said we want to better understand the impact of conservation on our budget. These are very savvy farmers and it intrigued me that they didn’t have an adequate answer to that question already.”

Scott Henry of Iowa, Justin Knopf of Kansas, and Josh Yoder of Ohio opened their books and shared comprehensive farm-level data. As Monast notes, it can be quite difficult to convince a farmer to hand over unfettered access to his or her records. The report also included a comparative analysis of 10 additional farms.  


I recently posted this picture of amassed corn stalk residue on my The Farmer’s Life facebook page with the description “Water has caused crop residue to accumulate in some areas creating a thick mat. In our no-till fields. We may have to burn a few of these to assist the planter in placing seed correctly.”  The first comment on the photo resulted in the post you are reading right now.  That comment read“What’s a no till field? Why would you not till a field?”  A great question.  There are many kinds of tillage including not tilling at all.


There is now worldwide consensus that plough-based farming, as still widely practised, has unsustainable elements, whose continued promotion and application endangers global capacities to respond to the food security concerns. Ploughing and removal of crop residues after harvest leave soil naked and vulnerable to wind and rain, resulting in gradual, often unnoticed erosion of soil. This is like tire wear on your car — unless given the attention and respect it deserves, catastrophe is only a matter of time. Erosion also puts carbon into the air where it contributes to climate change.


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