Economics of soil health evaluated

Improving soil health can help farmers build drought resilience, increase nutrient availability, suppress diseases, reduce erosion and nutrient losses, and increase economic benefits according to recent Soil Health Institute research. 

“In addition to benefiting farmers and their land, many soil health management systems also benefit the broader environment by storing soil carbon, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and improving water quality,” said Wayne Honeycutt, president and CEO, Soil Health Institute (SHI). “However, investing in soil health is also a business decision, and information regarding the economic benefits of adopting soil health practices was limited until the Institute’s recent evaluation.”

To address this information gap, Cargill and SHI partnered to assess the economics of soil health management systems and provide farmers with the economic information they need when deciding whether to adopt regenerative soil health systems.  

SHI researchers interviewed 100 farmers across nine states (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota, and Tennessee) who adopted soil health systems to acquire production information such as tillage practices, nutrient management, pest management, yield changes, and others. Archie Flanders, SHI agricultural economist, then evaluated the on-farm economics using partial budget analysis. A detailed description of the partial budget methodology used can be found on the SHI website: In this approach, the costs and benefits of a soil health system are compared before and after adoption of that system. 

From the data collection and analysis across all 100 farms, SHI found that soil health management systems: 

  1. Increased net income for 85% of farmers growing corn and 88% of farmers growing soybeans
  2. Reduced the average cost to grow corn by $24 per acre and soybeans by $17 per acre, and
  3. Increased net farm income by an average of $52 per acre for corn and $45 per acre for soybeans.

In addition, 97% of the farmers interviewed reported their soil health management system increased crop resilience to extreme weather.

“There has been growing awareness and interest among farmers in soil health. Increasingly, they are looking for a more robust picture of the long-term benefits soil health management systems can provide,” said Ryan Sirolli, Global Row Crop Sustainability Director at Cargill. “We’re encouraged by the work the Soil Health Institute has done to provide additional quantitative evidence to demonstrate the economic benefits of adopting soil health management systems. These results further our confidence that agriculture is how farmers can become more resilient and profitable while making a positive impact on the environment.”

A series of webinars will be held to provide more information about the study and findings.

“To get information into the hands of farmers that is most relevant to them, we are presenting results for each individual state using webinars and fact sheets,” Honeycutt said. “The webinars will cover the highlights and give farmers an opportunity to ask questions, while the fact sheets will provide a bit more detail for their particular state. We are inviting as many state-based, ag-related organizations as we can find and asking them to please forward the invitation to all farmers on their mailing list.”

The state-by-state webinars will occur weekly from March 18 through May 13. Registration is free but required to participate. All who register will receive that state’s fact sheet. 

The Ohio webinar scheduled for May 6, at 2 p.m. ET. Register here:

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