Figuring out soil health ROI

Figuring out the return on investment with soil health tends to be complicated.

Nebraska farmer Keith Berns owns a cover crop seed business and travels as a speaker.  He says his message is called “Soil health makes sense, but does it make dollars?”

“And the whole crux of it is it doesn’t really matter how good it does for the environment, how good it does for your neighbors. If you can’t make money doing it, then it’s not going to be something that’s sustainable for the long run.”

He tells Brownfield no-till practices, cover crops, and integrating small grains to diversify crop rotation are three soil health practices he focuses on when doing a financial analysis.

“Where does the additional cost go? Where does the savings come from? How does it effect fuel use, herbicides? What’s the value of soil not lost to erosion?”

He says farmers can get a fairly clear picture on the return of soil health practices by putting a value to the nutrients gained from additional organic matter and the impact to crop yields.

Berns is the keynote speaker at the Practical Farmers of Iowa Conference January 19th in Des Moines.

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