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Quantifying Economic and Environmental Benefits of Soil Health

Project at a Glance

Farmers face increased erratic weather conditions while constantly trying to cut costs and improve profits all while responding to society’s call to reduce unintended water quality and climate issues associated with agriculture. 

 Many farmers believe the scientific evidence that soil health practices improve soil and water quality. However, they are reluctant to change management techniques without knowing how much the soil health practices will cost or benefit them. So, AFT found “soil health successful farmers,” and conducted benefit-cost analyses. 

AFT used partial budget analysis to estimate the net economic benefits eight farmers have experienced from investing in soil health practices (e.g., no-till, strip-till, cover crops, nutrient management, conservation cover, compost application, and mulching). We also used USDA’s Nutrient Tracking Tool and USDA’s COMET-Farm Tool to quantify the water quality and climate benefits of these practices.  

We’ve produced nine two-page case studies that we hope will be useful to farmers and landowners who are curious about soil health practices; to give them confidence that investing in the practices is worth the risk.  

This project is supported by a USDA Conservation Innovation Grant and the case studies are being co-branded by the Natural Resources Conservation Service. 

AFT will be hosting online webinars to offer trainings to fellow conservationists and farmers who want to learn how to conduct the partial budget economic analysis.  Please email SHTraining@farmland.org with your interest in the training webinars and we will email you the webinar details when they are available.

Related Blog Posts and Press Releases

Contacts for Implementing Soil Health Practices

Farmers can reach out to their local NRCS and Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) staff as well as the AFT authors of the case studies to help them implement soil health practices on their farm.

Contact Information

Project Methods

This project developed three methods to evaluate the economic, water quality, and climate outcomes experienced by “soil health successful farmers.” Access the methods materials to create your own soil health case studies.

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Addressing Barriers to Soil Health

AFT’s project addresses the three major barriers to adoption of soil health management systems.

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For more information, please contact Michelle Perez, PhD., project leader.