Arkansas Discovery Farms (ARDF) – a program geared toward monitoring and evaluating water quality in runoff from various agricultural production systems. The program assesses the need for best-management practices related to water conservation, as well as reduction of nutrient and sediment loss. Information gathered from this project provides a knowledge base to help address larger-scale issues.
Illinois Sustainable Ag Partnership (ISAP) is another state-based group providing resources for farmers to gain value from conservation practices. The partnership offers educational materials and technical assistance, including its S.T.A.R. Program through the Champaign County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD). S.T.A.R. helps farmers adopt new practices and begin the journey to improved soil health with a long-term plan for sustainability and profitability. Many Illinois soy growers are participating in a program introduced by Illinois Department of Agriculture in 2019 encouraging farmers to seed fall cover crops and receive a $5 per acre insurance premium discount in return. The small reward incentivizes growers to increase cover crops on their land, making the farms more sustainable through improved soil health and water quality while mitigating economic risk. The Cover Crop Premium Discount Program applies to acreage verified as using Midwest Cover Crop Council Cover Crop Tool recommendations.
Illinois Soybean Association has partnered with the Soil and Water Outcomes Fund and other groups to catalyze farmer adoption of conservation practices that generate verifiable carbon reductions and water quality improvements. In 2021, the Soil and Water Outcomes Fund plans to expand to more than 100,000 acres of cropland across Iowa, Ohio and Illinois. The Illinois expansion will start in Bureau, DeKalb, DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Kendall, Lake, LaSalle, Lee, McHenry, and Will counties in Illinois, targeting 20,000 acres of new conservation practice adoption. The Soil and Water Outcomes Fund provides financial incentives directly to farmers who transition to on-farm conservation practices such as no till and cover crops that yield outcomes like carbon sequestration and water quality improvement
ISA has teamed up with the Illinois Corn Growers Association to research on-farm conservation practices and the financial implications of their adoption via the Precision Conservation Management (PCM) program. Initiated through funding from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service – Regional Conservation Partnership Program, PCM combines precision technology and data management with farm business and financials to help farmers manage, adopt, and adapt conservation practices long-term and improve on-farm decision-making.
ISA works hard to provide farmers actionable resources to expand conservation practices on their farms. Three conservation lease addendum templates are available on IL.SoyAdvisor.com and are meant to help landowners and tenants discuss sustainability conversations. The lease addendums and more sustainability-focused content can be found here. ISA also hosts an annual Soybean Summit, which offers attendees the opportunity to hear from experts in the sustainability track.
Indiana Soy Alliance (ISA) is a partner of the Indiana Agriculture Nutrient Alliance, which is dedicated to keeping Indiana at the forefront of proactive nutrient management and soil health practices that improve farm viability and, ultimately, reduce nutrient loss to water. ISA works with its partners on:
Mississippi SIP – Irrigation is not a new idea to the South, but the way farmers approach it is. The Mississippi Soybean Promotion Board started the Sustainable Irrigation Project (SIP) to promote the use of efficient irrigation-management tools, such as PHAUCET, to reduce the amount of irrigation water applied. PHAUCET, or Pipe Hole and Universal Crown Evaluation Tool, is a computer program developed by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to improve the efficiency of existing furrow-irrigation systems.
The 2021 Climate Change and Missouri Agriculture report clearly identifies the marked impact of Missouri farmers’ efforts around soil conservation and climate change. In Missouri alone, investments into conservation practices over the last 30 years have translated into annual greenhouse gas emission reductions of more than 2.8 million tons of C02e–equal to roughly 640,000 passenger cars. That’s more than 25% of total passenger cars registered in Missouri and the equivalent of 6.3 billion road miles. In that same time, Missouri’s average soybean yield grew by roughly 66%. In addition to dramatically reducing GHG emissions without sacrificing production, farmers’ efforts have also helped keep soil in the field. Soil savings from on-farm practices like no-till and conservation tillage in Missouri have prevented erosion of 177 million tons of soil, equal to enough tandem axle dump truck loads of soil to circle earth more than three times. Broad areas the report identifies in which farmers are making contributions:
Missouri Soybeans supports Missouri Farmers Care, including being a primary sponsor of MFC’s annual conservation award, the Leopold Conservation Award, which recognizes extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation, inspires other landowners through their example, and helps the general public understand the vital role private landowners can and do play in conservation success. Additionally, Missouri Soybeans actively reminds soy farmers to “Cover some Ground” and otherwise stay active in their sustainability and conservation commitments. The University of Missouri strip trial program works with farmers to validate management decisions and document efficiency and environmental stewardship. Funded in large part by the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council, the program has completed close to 200 trials on Missouri fields since 2016, with a quarter of those focused on cover crops. Extension professionals work with farmers and use drones to collect information that can generate a yield map and compare treatment outcomes. Also worth checking out, how Missouri’s new Center for Soy Innovation is a tangible demonstration of soybean farmers’ investments in sustainability, from soy-based building materials to native plantings, soil management and water quality work.
Nebraska SoyWater – Nebraska soybean farmers’ use of irrigation has steadily increased over time. Irrigated soybean acreage now accounts for about 45% of the state’s total production area. The Nebraska Soybean Board funded research through James Specht, Ph.D., at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to develop a web-based water-management tool called SoyWater. This interactive application uses probes and weather-station data to help farmers determine when they need to irrigate and how much water they need to apply.