2020 Cover Crop Conference Presentations
2020 Nebraska Cover Crop and Soil Health Conference presentation - Accelerating Soil Health Adoption by Quantifying Economic & Environmental Outcomes and Overcoming Barriers on Rented Lands - Brian Brandt, Director of Ag Conservation Innovations , American Farmland Trust, Columbus, Ohio
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[00:00:21.910]So next we have up is Brian Brandt.
[00:00:23.810]He's director with Ag Conservation Innovations
[00:00:26.580]and American Farmland Trust.
[00:00:27.990]He's from Ohio,
[00:00:28.920]so we have another out-state traveler,
[00:00:31.510]and we appreciate your efforts in getting here.
[00:00:33.260]It's never easy this time a year,
[00:00:35.200]let alone other complications
[00:00:37.320]with traveling within our U.S. system (chuckles).
[00:00:41.400]He's gonna be talking about
[00:00:42.233]accelerating soil health adoption
[00:00:43.930]by quantifying economic and environmental outcomes,
[00:00:46.590]and overcoming barriers on rented land,
[00:00:48.710]which it actually was a question
[00:00:50.220]that came up earlier today already.
[00:00:51.670]So with that, I'll turn it over, thank you.
[00:00:53.440]All right, thank you.
[00:00:54.380]Can everybody hear me all right?
[00:00:56.540]So my name is Brian Brandt.
[00:00:58.050]I'm actually with American Farmland Trust.
[00:01:00.670]If you're not familiar with American Farmland Trust,
[00:01:04.770]AFT is a private nonprofit corporation
[00:01:08.590]that's actually based in Washington D.C.,
[00:01:10.520]but we have actually about a hundred staff
[00:01:13.440]spread out around the country,
[00:01:15.340]focused on kind of agricultural issues,
[00:01:18.800]and really what we work on are three things,
[00:01:21.230]so protecting farmland.
[00:01:23.650]We do a lot of work, policy work,
[00:01:25.760]around protecting farmland at the local,
[00:01:27.730]state, and federal level.
[00:01:29.280]Another part of our mission
[00:01:30.490]is promoting sound farming practices,
[00:01:33.160]so the case studies you're going to hear about
[00:01:35.760]kinda falls into that category,
[00:01:38.360]and then the third part of our mission
[00:01:39.920]is actually thinking about
[00:01:41.750]the next generation of farmers
[00:01:43.940]that will be farmers,
[00:01:45.600]because you don't have farmland if you don't have farmers,
[00:01:47.910]so that's just a little bit of information about AFT.
[00:01:51.260]I wanna thank Keith for inviting me
[00:01:53.290]to present here today.
[00:01:56.080]He had seen the case studies
[00:01:57.480]and thought maybe this would be good information for you.
[00:02:00.480]Okay, so to get into the case studies
[00:02:04.450]and kinda presenting that information,
[00:02:07.500]what I'm hoping to do here today
[00:02:09.630]is talk a little bit about
[00:02:11.150]why we wanna quantify outcomes,
[00:02:13.030]especially related to soil health practices,
[00:02:16.710]and including cover crops.
[00:02:19.630]So give you a little overview
[00:02:22.110]of the soil health case studies work
[00:02:25.420]that we did through a conservation innovation grant
[00:02:28.320]that's a program through NRCS.
[00:02:31.590]The goals of that project,
[00:02:33.540]a little bit about the team
[00:02:35.110]and all the people that were involved
[00:02:37.500]in creating these case studies,
[00:02:39.680]a little bit about the methods,
[00:02:41.050]and then talk about the results,
[00:02:42.390]which I'm sure most of you
[00:02:43.650]are most interested in that part of it.
[00:02:46.360]So why do we wanna quantify soil health outcomes?
[00:02:50.160]We wanna have evidence
[00:02:51.330]that no-till, strip-till, cover crops,
[00:02:54.360]all these things that we talk about
[00:02:55.870]as soil health practices, make sense
[00:03:00.500]from an economic perspective.
[00:03:04.200]I think there's a lot of anecdotal information out there
[00:03:08.350]about these soil health practices,
[00:03:10.300]and do they generate, potentially,
[00:03:12.930]additional profits for farmers,
[00:03:15.060]but there's not actually
[00:03:16.130]a lot of real-world information out there
[00:03:19.870]in regards to the economic impacts
[00:03:23.060]of these soil health practices.
[00:03:25.930]And then another thing is
[00:03:27.710]we also like to try to assess a little bit
[00:03:30.069]the environmental impacts of the practices as well.
[00:03:33.910]So hopefully this is information
[00:03:35.307]that the agricultural community can use
[00:03:38.380]for various purposes.
[00:03:40.110]So the farmer can use it for themselves
[00:03:42.090]to determine, hey, is this something I really wanna try?
[00:03:45.480]Maybe they can share that information
[00:03:47.520]with landlords, people that they're leasing their land from.
[00:03:52.220]Maybe bankers to talk about
[00:03:54.170]the economic benefits of doing that,
[00:03:56.480]so maybe good information for bankers,
[00:04:00.820]or landlords, when we're wondering,
[00:04:02.247]"Hey, why do you wanna do these practices?"
[00:04:05.240]So hopefully that can be helpful.
[00:04:07.470]Talking a little bit about the project,
[00:04:10.610]so what we were trying to accomplish
[00:04:12.500]in doing these case studies, like I said,
[00:04:15.270]is to quantify the economic and environmental outcomes
[00:04:18.260]associated with the practices,
[00:04:20.570]you know, really increase awareness
[00:04:23.860]among the larger community, about the benefits.
[00:04:27.160]Like I said, develop a persuasive education tool
[00:04:31.450]to convince farmers to, and share with their landlords,
[00:04:34.590]so that they can try these on rented lands.
[00:04:37.060]We know that many times
[00:04:38.490]conservation practices don't get adopted
[00:04:40.870]on rented land,
[00:04:42.230]because of short-term leases and other reasons,
[00:04:45.810]and potentially helping improve
[00:04:47.790]that farmer-landowner communication aspect,
[00:04:51.490]and the interaction, sharing that information with them.
[00:04:55.200]So just a little bit about the team,
[00:04:58.680]the project lead for this is Michele Perez.
[00:05:01.030]She's our water initiative director at AFT,
[00:05:04.690]and she partnered, actually,
[00:05:06.057]with a retired economist within our CS
[00:05:10.170]to develop part of the protocol that we use
[00:05:12.810]to do the economic analysis, so that's Florence Swartz.
[00:05:16.160]She was retired NRCS New York economist.
[00:05:21.220]And then we have case studies, actually,
[00:05:23.840]from really four areas across the country,
[00:05:27.410]so we have case studies from California,
[00:05:30.040]so that was Justin Bodell,
[00:05:31.840]from Illinois, that's Emily Bruner.
[00:05:33.680]That's our AFTs Midwest science director.
[00:05:36.850]Me, in Ohio, who's our,
[00:05:38.980]I direct our Ag innovations program,
[00:05:41.690]and then New York, so Aaron Ristow,
[00:05:44.100]is our New York stewardship manager.
[00:05:48.240]And then, as a part of the case studies,
[00:05:50.350]we actually had a pretty comprehensive
[00:05:53.100]and really almost exhaustive external review,
[00:05:58.870]so we used many NRCS economists
[00:06:01.620]to review the case studies,
[00:06:04.000]and then also, university economists
[00:06:06.900]from individual states, to help do those reviews.
[00:06:10.570]Soil health specialists from NRCS,
[00:06:13.540]and then as far as the environmental outcomes,
[00:06:15.800]we use two separate tools,
[00:06:17.470]but we had two individuals
[00:06:19.890]that really helped develop
[00:06:20.950]those two tools that we use.
[00:06:22.780]Mindy Selman with USDA,
[00:06:25.400]and then Matthew Stermer,
[00:06:27.410]who's actually ARS,
[00:06:28.840]who developed COMET-Farm.
[00:06:31.410]So talk a little bit
[00:06:32.290]about the economic methods.
[00:06:35.360]So we really, this was the biggest component
[00:06:39.860]of the case studies, that we really wanna emphasize.
[00:06:43.250]So we looked at the farmer's practices
[00:06:45.550]both before and after,
[00:06:47.510]and we really wanted to do a partial budget analysis.
[00:06:51.610]So what this partial budget analysis does,
[00:06:54.500]it estimates the effects,
[00:06:56.390]you know, the economic effects,
[00:06:57.810]of changes in the farm operation.
[00:07:00.230]So they did more conventional tillage
[00:07:03.170]earlier in their farm operations,
[00:07:05.990]and then later on, as they started incorporating
[00:07:09.080]reduced or no-till, strip-tillage,
[00:07:11.480]cover crops, improved nutrient managements
[00:07:14.290]such as variable-rate nutrient applications,
[00:07:17.180]it looks at the partial budget components
[00:07:19.470]of all those practices.
[00:07:22.220]And it only focused on those variables
[00:07:24.470]that are affected by the change.
[00:07:26.670]So like I said, it compares the costs
[00:07:28.760]and the benefits of that before and after.
[00:07:31.640]So the primary components
[00:07:33.100]that we're really looking at
[00:07:34.220]with these partial budget analysis
[00:07:37.010]were machinery, fertilizer, pesticide, yield,
[00:07:41.030]things like erosion repair,
[00:07:43.250]when you have erosion.
[00:07:45.534]What does it take, from an education perspective,
[00:07:48.040]going to meetings like this,
[00:07:49.300]doing reading on your own, you know, other things?
[00:07:53.313]So those are the main aspects
[00:07:54.900]of this economic analysis that we try to do.
[00:07:58.860]So this is kind of an example
[00:08:01.370]of the output when we did that partial budget analysis.
[00:08:08.090]So you can see here in the green, on the left side,
[00:08:12.510]the green means these are kind of the positive components
[00:08:17.220]of that economic analysis.
[00:08:19.630]So those would have been things
[00:08:21.510]that increase the profit
[00:08:23.380]or reduce costs in relationship
[00:08:25.540]to changing those practices,
[00:08:27.690]and then here in the red
[00:08:28.850]you can see those are things
[00:08:30.700]that would have either increased the cost
[00:08:33.150]or caused a loss in income,
[00:08:38.180]maybe reduced yield, things like that,
[00:08:41.090]and then on the bottom of the partial budget analysis
[00:08:43.890]we try to roll up the cost and the benefits,
[00:08:47.980]and then get an overall perspective
[00:08:50.190]of what the benefits were.
[00:08:52.180]So like I said, the green is positive,
[00:08:54.900]the red is negative, and then we add everything up.
[00:09:01.840]Give a little bit of information
[00:09:03.100]on the environmental analysis.
[00:09:05.260]So we actually use two models,
[00:09:07.880]both developed by either USDA or ARS,
[00:09:11.830]so the first is a nutrient-tracking tool,
[00:09:14.770]and with this we can actually go to the farm
[00:09:17.740]and get farm-level information
[00:09:19.840]about soil types,
[00:09:21.370]it brings in weather information
[00:09:22.994]and other types of information
[00:09:25.410]in relationship to that specific site,
[00:09:28.100]and we can put in the practices, both before and after,
[00:09:31.900]and what it does, it gives an estimate
[00:09:34.150]of the losses in relationship
[00:09:38.450]to nitrogen phosphorous in sediment,
[00:09:40.670]so it gives us an estimate both before,
[00:09:43.690]and an estimate for after,
[00:09:44.960]and then we compare the difference
[00:09:46.750]between those two to get kind of a relationship
[00:09:49.770]of those before and after practices.
[00:09:53.060]And then for actually a greenhouse gas perspective,
[00:09:56.770]so what are the potential to sequester carbon
[00:10:00.600]when you're utilizing these practices,
[00:10:02.450]so how much carbon can you put into the soil?
[00:10:05.240]We used a tool called COMET-Farm,
[00:10:07.570]and again, we kinda did that before and after analysis
[00:10:10.950]to look at what are the total sequestration
[00:10:14.370]and greenhouse gas benefits
[00:10:16.250]to utilizing these practices
[00:10:18.468]that the farmers implemented?
[00:10:22.050]So now we actually have eight soil health case studies.
[00:10:26.990]Previously, before, we had released four,
[00:10:29.450]but actually tomorrow we will be
[00:10:31.800]officially releasing our second set
[00:10:33.960]of four case studies,
[00:10:36.290]so two from California, two from Illinois,
[00:10:40.600]two from Ohio, and then two from New York.
[00:10:43.340]So they're just two pages, front and back,
[00:10:46.010]and really what we try to do
[00:10:47.410]is capture the farmer's experiences
[00:10:50.470]in implementing the various practices,
[00:10:53.500]and then again we roll up those economic analysis
[00:10:57.990]and provide that information in the write-up as well.
[00:11:03.080]So it's actually a fairly involved process.
[00:11:06.860]So I'm one of the authors,
[00:11:08.120]or one of the authors,
[00:11:09.320]I've done two of these case studies myself.
[00:11:11.990]So we actually have a pretty lengthy process,
[00:11:14.500]interview process, with the farmer,
[00:11:17.160]where we sit down and really try
[00:11:19.540]to gather all the information
[00:11:21.500]about all the changes that the farmer's done on his farm,
[00:11:25.910]really talk through how his practices have changed,
[00:11:30.760]including how is your nutrient management
[00:11:33.330]applications have changed,
[00:11:34.920]what types of cover crop mixes are you using,
[00:11:38.740]you know, what specific tillage practices
[00:11:41.292]are you using now,
[00:11:42.740]and what did you use then,
[00:11:44.400]how did they change over time,
[00:11:46.180]and in many cases there's kind of a progression
[00:11:49.260]of those changes in practices as well.
[00:11:52.040]And then we actually pick out,
[00:11:54.290]we talk about his overall operation,
[00:11:56.370]and then we actually pick out
[00:11:57.520]a particular field where we even go
[00:12:00.380]a little more in-depth
[00:12:01.750]and we get the history
[00:12:03.450]over the last ten years of those practices.
[00:12:07.150]The nutrient-management rates, the seeding rates,
[00:12:10.500]of your main crops, the seeding rates of the cover crops,
[00:12:13.400]and that's all the information
[00:12:15.390]that we incorporate into that analysis.
[00:12:18.410]So talking about the results, what have we found?
[00:12:21.630]So actually, what I've done here
[00:12:23.440]is rolled up the results
[00:12:25.340]for the six case studies
[00:12:27.080]that are really, we call midwest-oriented.
[00:12:30.750]I know we don't necessarily consider New York midwest,
[00:12:34.010]but a lot of those cropping systems
[00:12:36.380]are similar to the systems
[00:12:39.060]that are pretty typical across
[00:12:41.160]what we consider the normal midwest area.
[00:12:45.010]So talking about yield changes,
[00:12:47.730]out of the six case studies,
[00:12:49.820]five reported yield increases,
[00:12:52.210]and these are increases that,
[00:12:54.570]in many cases, are the farmer says,
[00:12:56.957]"I have yield monitor data,
[00:12:58.697]"that I'm utilizing yield monitor
[00:13:00.907]"and I'm doing scale checks,
[00:13:02.637]"and know what the actual yields are on these farms."
[00:13:06.090]I will point out that they're not replicated,
[00:13:08.460]kind of side-by-side in-field studies,
[00:13:11.470]so if you're looking for that in these case studies
[00:13:13.760]that's not what it is,
[00:13:15.680]but it's going on, you know, harvest information
[00:13:18.490]and planning information,
[00:13:20.410]that the farmer can provide,
[00:13:23.970]you know, receipts, or proof for, from the farm.
[00:13:29.270]But overall, we saw an average
[00:13:32.250]of two to 22% yield increase
[00:13:35.170]with farmers adopting,
[00:13:36.760]and primarily reduced tillage,
[00:13:39.530]primarily no-till or strip-till,
[00:13:42.260]utilizing cover crops,
[00:13:44.340]and using some type
[00:13:45.440]of improved nutrient management applications.
[00:13:50.020]Talking about the change in net income,
[00:13:53.300]so the six farms, an increase in net income
[00:13:56.800]of $41 per acre per year,
[00:13:59.590]so these are real numbers from the farmers.
[00:14:02.900]And then if you look at the return on investment,
[00:14:05.870]what is invested in changing,
[00:14:09.150]getting new equipment or different equipment,
[00:14:12.010]which usually means less equipment.
[00:14:14.380]The investment in the cover crops, and so on,
[00:14:17.000]it's actually, on average,
[00:14:18.750]was 151% return on investment
[00:14:22.640]for these particular farmers, in making those changes.
[00:14:26.660]So that's not, obviously not going to be
[00:14:28.730]the case for everyone,
[00:14:30.460]but I think it is indicative of the potential
[00:14:35.100]if an individual can get it figured out on their farm,
[00:14:38.470]and I will add that many of these farmers
[00:14:41.600]have made mistakes.
[00:14:42.790]They've gone through a series of learning on their farms
[00:14:46.070]to understand what works there,
[00:14:47.970]and there's many different systems as well,
[00:14:50.040]so they're utilizing cover crops in different ways,
[00:14:52.990]they're utilizing different
[00:14:54.310]kind of reduced-tillage practices,
[00:14:56.510]so there's a lot of variety in actually what they're doing.
[00:15:03.500]Continuing to talk about the benefits,
[00:15:05.460]changes in fertilizer costs,
[00:15:07.290]five out of six farms have seen
[00:15:09.160]reduced cost for fertilizer,
[00:15:12.020]and saving approximately about $36 per acre per year.
[00:15:16.430]I will say that one of my farmers that I interviewed
[00:15:19.660]has actually increased his fertilizer applications.
[00:15:24.200]I would say he wasn't doing a very good job
[00:15:26.138]of really applying the nutrients needed
[00:15:29.010]earlier on in his farming operation,
[00:15:31.630]and is doing a much better job now,
[00:15:33.260]so he has increased fertilizer cost
[00:15:35.170]but also has greatly increased his production as well.
[00:15:39.250]And then talking about change
[00:15:41.100]in machinery, fuel, and labor costs,
[00:15:43.650]again, five farms out of six
[00:15:45.950]show reduced labor and machinery cost,
[00:15:48.570]saving an average of $31 per acre per year.
[00:15:54.160]Any questions so far,
[00:15:56.180]about any of the information?
[00:15:59.310]Question over here?
[00:16:00.380]On the COMET model,
[00:16:03.090]you're playing on that,
[00:16:04.080]are allowed to use more than one practice?
[00:16:07.836](Audience Member speaks faintly)
[00:16:09.710]I gotta think back to how,
[00:16:12.030]because I'm the one that did it.
[00:16:12.897]Can you repeat the question, Brian?
[00:16:14.640]Yeah, so he wanted to understand,
[00:16:16.660]on the COMET model,
[00:16:17.840]which is the greenhouse gas
[00:16:19.350]and carbon sequestration model,
[00:16:21.740]can you input multiple practices into that model,
[00:16:26.640]and really, the answer is yes,
[00:16:28.440]because what you do,
[00:16:30.580]and actually you can,
[00:16:32.350]so you put in your practices
[00:16:34.380]for each particular year,
[00:16:36.400]and then what it does
[00:16:37.457]is it kind of summarizes and rolls up
[00:16:40.680]the benefits for each particular year,
[00:16:42.820]but really kind of looks,
[00:16:43.940]what we do is look at a multi-year series,
[00:16:46.630]so a chunk of five or 10 years of before,
[00:16:49.940]and then a chunk of five or 10 years,
[00:16:52.300]or three years, of after they've been in a system,
[00:16:55.560]what the benefits are there.
[00:16:57.150]But you can input multiple practices,
[00:17:00.315]and really you input practices for each individual year,
[00:17:04.940]so whatever the changes are,
[00:17:06.180]you can allow for that in the model.
[00:17:08.766](Audience Member speaks faintly)
[00:17:14.196]It's apparent there are NRCS-approved practices,
[00:17:17.937]with the COMET model.
[00:17:22.810]You can customize how you enter
[00:17:26.040]the information in a little bit,
[00:17:28.410]and I don't know if you use COMET-Planner
[00:17:31.360]COMET-Planner is a little more general,
[00:17:33.940]but COMET-Farm is the part of it
[00:17:36.050]that's a little more customizable.
[00:17:40.438]I don't know if I completely answered your question, but.
[00:17:43.868](Audience Member speaks faintly)
[00:17:44.701]Yep, pesticide usage,
[00:17:49.000]we actually saw four farms that saw changes.
[00:17:55.850]For two farms, they actually had
[00:17:57.140]increased use of pesticides,
[00:17:59.130]probably most of that related to herbicides,
[00:18:03.070]but two farms had a decrease,
[00:18:07.761]and then learning cost averaged
[00:18:09.280]about $3 per acre per year,
[00:18:11.970]so just trying to get a sense
[00:18:13.740]of kind of those individual categories,
[00:18:16.010]what the results were,
[00:18:18.100]and then looking at the results
[00:18:20.440]from both NTT and COMET-Farm,
[00:18:24.520]so for all of the farms rolled up,
[00:18:27.350]if you look at the model results
[00:18:29.990]there is an average reduction in nitrogen losses
[00:18:33.250]of about 61%.
[00:18:36.620]So I can say for my,
[00:18:39.660]the two case studies that I did,
[00:18:41.850]if you think about N,
[00:18:43.870]the before losses would have been
[00:18:45.940]in about the 15 to 20 pounds of N loss per acre range,
[00:18:51.300]and then after, they would have been in the range
[00:18:53.440]of about 10 pounds per acre,
[00:18:55.460]so I'm just trying to give you a sense
[00:18:57.680]of what the ranges were,
[00:18:59.630]and then P losses was actually
[00:19:01.520]about a 74% reduction,
[00:19:04.110]and then erosion reduction was 81%,
[00:19:07.730]so again, these are estimated savings,
[00:19:10.370]or reductions in losses,
[00:19:13.845]so that's something that we have to factor in as well.
[00:19:18.190]And then, talking about the carbon
[00:19:22.220]or greenhouse gas benefits,
[00:19:24.330]about 217% reduction in,
[00:19:28.520]I guess, carbon emissions related
[00:19:31.020]to those farming operations,
[00:19:33.150]so most of the time when you're doing a lot of tillage,
[00:19:37.540]you're actually releasing carbon from the soil,
[00:19:41.000]so what we've seen in these examples
[00:19:43.480]is instead of releasing carbon
[00:19:45.540]you actually start to sequester carbon
[00:19:47.980]and put organic matter back into your soils,
[00:19:50.980]and a lot of that actually started really happening
[00:19:53.440]when you introduced cover crops into the rotation,
[00:19:56.480]so if you look at the outputs going to COMET-Farm,
[00:20:00.342]when you start putting cover crops back into the rotation
[00:20:03.250]that's really when you start seeing
[00:20:05.470]those carbon benefits, and being able
[00:20:07.290]to put carbon back into the soil.
[00:20:11.670]And so just going over some individual farmers,
[00:20:14.730]one of the farmers from New York,
[00:20:17.550]which actually has multiple crops in his rotation,
[00:20:21.100]has dairy as well,
[00:20:23.680]so he had a lot of opportunities.
[00:20:26.120]So he has small grains,
[00:20:27.270]a lot of opportunities to really put in cover crops
[00:20:31.690]and do things after small grains,
[00:20:33.560]where you can really create a lot of biomass,
[00:20:37.110]maybe some nitrogen and fertilizer benefits
[00:20:41.350]related to that,
[00:20:42.370]so he is really a producer
[00:20:44.470]that saw a huge return on investment
[00:20:47.090]to doing the soil health practices,
[00:20:51.450]and then about $55 per acre benefit
[00:20:54.490]for this particular farmer in New York,
[00:20:57.410]and we can see the other benefits here.
[00:21:00.630]So if we look at actually the individual benefits,
[00:21:05.270]he estimated his yield impact
[00:21:07.430]at about $71.95 per acre.
[00:21:11.348]Machinery costs, some nutrient savings.
[00:21:14.350]So those were the benefits,
[00:21:16.920]and then if you look at the cost here,
[00:21:19.720]so he had high cover crop cost
[00:21:21.440]doing a pretty extensive seed mix,
[00:21:23.830]about $51 per acre,
[00:21:25.990]which is what's his main cost.
[00:21:31.920]But when you roll it all up
[00:21:33.090]it was about a $55 per acre benefit for him.
[00:21:36.530]This was one of the case studies I did.
[00:21:38.410]This is Eric Niemeyer, in Central Ohio.
[00:21:42.820]So overall, he saw about a $38 per acre benefit
[00:21:46.230]on his farm, to doing completely no-till,
[00:21:50.880]planting green on his farm,
[00:21:54.980]doing about three or four species cover crop mixes.
[00:22:00.810]And then actually introducing variable rate
[00:22:02.990]nutrient applications as well.
[00:22:06.150]I know, a little more familiar with that,
[00:22:08.550]since I did that case study,
[00:22:10.500]but we tried to look at
[00:22:12.420]a lot of the different benefits,
[00:22:13.690]so he had a yield benefit
[00:22:16.670]to introducing all those soil health practices,
[00:22:19.850]nutrient savings, some pesticide savings.
[00:22:22.760]So I know Lauren talked about
[00:22:25.180]not using treated seed.
[00:22:27.670]He's at the point now
[00:22:28.790]where about half of his seed is not treated,
[00:22:31.770]so that goes into
[00:22:33.340]the pesticide savings reduction calculation,
[00:22:36.710]actually I have that there,
[00:22:39.220]reduced machinery cost,
[00:22:40.740]and then having much less erosion,
[00:22:43.560]not having to go back and do repairs
[00:22:45.880]and things like that.
[00:22:47.760]And then look at the costs,
[00:22:49.680]so obviously, increased costs
[00:22:51.740]for doing variable-rate applications.
[00:22:56.050]a lot of learning activities here for him.
[00:22:58.130]He's actually using some biologicals in-furrow,
[00:23:01.510]so that we included that in some of his costs here,
[00:23:04.630]and then pretty extensive cover costs,
[00:23:07.530]cover crop costs for him as well.
[00:23:09.800]But when you add it all up,
[00:23:11.820]he's seeing benefits in his operation
[00:23:14.500]to the tune of $38 per acre,
[00:23:17.360]when you add it all up.
[00:23:20.280]And then we have a producer in Illinois,
[00:23:22.800]no-till, strip-trill, cover crops, nutrient management,
[00:23:26.670]seeing about a $34 per acre benefit,
[00:23:30.230]so for him about 129% return on investment.
[00:23:34.910]Again, we can look at the individual costs,
[00:23:37.930]relatively minor yield benefit,
[00:23:41.240]definitely some nutrient savings here,
[00:23:42.960]reduced cost for doing the reduced tillage,
[00:23:47.410]and then looking at some of the negatives here.
[00:23:52.260]So mostly cover crop costs.
[00:23:54.870]He actually has had to increase
[00:23:57.610]his pesticide cost somewhat here.
[00:24:00.490]I'm not sure if that was for like seed treatments
[00:24:03.610]or like insecticides or herbicides.
[00:24:07.010]It's probably in, if you read the case studies,
[00:24:09.220]it probably talked about it in the case study,
[00:24:12.660]but again, when you roll it all up,
[00:24:15.070]about $34 per acre benefit in his operation.
[00:24:20.750]So how do we hope that farmers use these case studies?
[00:24:25.610]We want them to read the case studies
[00:24:27.420]and try to start doing them on their farm.
[00:24:32.410]Potentially can use them with ag retailers
[00:24:35.450]or other people that they're working with
[00:24:37.690]in their operations.
[00:24:40.820]So hopefully, it helps the farmer
[00:24:42.650]kind of overcome a barrier there
[00:24:44.870]into trying cover crops,
[00:24:47.080]and some of the other practices.
[00:24:49.740]Also, for the areas that we're working in,
[00:24:53.200]in Ohio and New York and so on,
[00:24:55.460]we're actually going to be trying
[00:24:56.880]to work with AF farmers that are interested
[00:25:01.330]in trying this on their farms,
[00:25:03.040]but kind of do a predictive analysis using these tools,
[00:25:06.230]to see, okay, what might the benefit be for your farm?
[00:25:11.790]That particular farmer would definitely have
[00:25:14.843]more information on their farms and their location,
[00:25:18.210]so trying to do that.
[00:25:19.960]But again, I mentioned hopefully
[00:25:21.840]farmers can utilize this information with landowners,
[00:25:24.790]either existing or new landowners,
[00:25:26.920]and potentially with their bankers as well,
[00:25:28.610]talking about the benefits.
[00:25:30.870]And then for the conservation community,
[00:25:33.900]obviously Keith saw this information,
[00:25:36.300]thought it would be good to present,
[00:25:38.450]so people like Keith and Extension agents,
[00:25:41.610]conservation professionals, can utilize it
[00:25:44.560]and share that with farmers
[00:25:46.220]that they're working with,
[00:25:48.560]to help answer questions about the costs and benefits
[00:25:51.590]of adopting these practices.
[00:25:54.420]So that's my presentation.
[00:25:56.640]I'm sure there may be a few questions.
[00:25:58.440]I don't know what the time aspect is.
[00:26:02.850]Questions for Brian.
[00:26:04.710]Keith and I will run the microphones around,
[00:26:06.370]so hold your question 'til you get the microphone,
[00:26:08.930]so everybody can hear it.
[00:26:13.600]Question from Charles.
[00:26:17.010]Yeah, my question is,
[00:26:18.670]some of those benefits,
[00:26:20.300]seems like you could ascribe them
[00:26:22.420]to just general best management practices,
[00:26:25.280]as compared to maybe soil health practices.
[00:26:28.690]Did you do anything to separate out
[00:26:31.210]what would be just following
[00:26:34.330]conventional Extension recommendations,
[00:26:37.020]as compared to some added innovation?
[00:26:41.380]I wouldn't say
[00:26:42.400]we really tried to separate it out.
[00:26:44.680]Really, what, at least what I did in my interview
[00:26:48.080]is really tried to rely
[00:26:49.740]on what the farmer was telling me,
[00:26:51.840]and how he changed what he was doing
[00:26:54.440]based on what he was seeing in his fields
[00:26:57.050]and the responses he was getting,
[00:26:59.100]so like for example, Eric Niemeyer,
[00:27:02.090]he talked about, he just didn't feel the need
[00:27:05.520]that he anymore, or at least about half of his acres,
[00:27:09.130]to put seed treatment on his soybeans anymore,
[00:27:12.440]so that's one thing that he's really cut back on,
[00:27:15.660]and utilizing his cover crops
[00:27:17.680]and where he's planting green,
[00:27:19.430]he really doesn't need to do really a burn-down anymore,
[00:27:24.510]so he comes in and will roll the cover crop,
[00:27:29.570]doesn't really have to do a burn-down,
[00:27:31.130]or he's only doing one herbicide pass
[00:27:34.020]whereas previously he was doing two herbicide passes,
[00:27:37.090]and using multiple products.
[00:27:38.520]So that's really how we tried
[00:27:40.640]to look at kinda the herbicide or the insecticide benefits,
[00:27:45.300]at least in our analysis.
[00:27:47.640]You know, is there a more scientific approach?
[00:27:51.570]Maybe, but that's at least how we did it.
[00:27:56.310]My question goes to,
[00:27:58.230]has anybody looked into some of these companies
[00:28:00.540]that are actually out there
[00:28:02.230]purchasing carbon credits,
[00:28:04.560]and that could be a possible benefit
[00:28:07.920]to adding some dollars on the plus side also.
[00:28:13.160]So that's actually kinda my normal (chuckles),
[00:28:16.150]what I tried to do.
[00:28:17.460]A lot of my work revolves
[00:28:18.620]around environmental markets, actually,
[00:28:20.930]so all I can say is
[00:28:23.120]there's a lot of things that are kind of emerging
[00:28:25.770]in that area, that I think,
[00:28:27.880]as we move into the future
[00:28:30.039]there's going to be more opportunities
[00:28:33.200]for farmers to participate in programs like that.
[00:28:36.170]I know there's a company out there, Indigo Ag,
[00:28:39.880]that's already doing a little bit of that,
[00:28:43.300]but there's a group called
[00:28:46.080]the environmental Ecosystem Services Market Consortium,
[00:28:50.440]which is a lot of companies and a lot of organizations
[00:28:53.270]that are involved kind of in the soil health arena,
[00:28:56.550]that they've come together
[00:28:57.860]to try to put together a framework
[00:29:01.480]for not only carbon trading or carbon credits
[00:29:04.950]and ways, and a process, for companies to, say,
[00:29:09.850]purchase carbon credits,
[00:29:10.950]but also looking at water quality
[00:29:12.780]and purchasing water quality credits as well.
[00:29:17.870]Another thing I will say as well
[00:29:20.900]is if you look at how companies,
[00:29:24.410]many companies are valuing carbon,
[00:29:27.660]so actually companies now
[00:29:29.840]are incorporating carbon costs
[00:29:33.450]into their internal balance sheets,
[00:29:35.450]so it's, for many companies,
[00:29:37.620]it's now essentially a liability on their balance sheet,
[00:29:41.230]and how they're valuing carbon,
[00:29:42.690]in a lot of cases, is say anywhere
[00:29:45.420]from 20 to $40 per ton,
[00:29:49.140]so they're thinking about, internally,
[00:29:51.030]how do they deal with this,
[00:29:54.500]you know, this kind of potential liability
[00:29:57.130]or real liability on their balance sheets,
[00:29:59.600]so that's why I think
[00:30:00.510]there'll be a lot of emerging opportunities in the future,
[00:30:04.690]where companies will be looking to purchase carbon credits,
[00:30:07.940]and agriculture is potentially a viable source
[00:30:11.130]of carbon credits if we can prove
[00:30:12.940]that carbon is sequestered,
[00:30:15.560]so I will just say that I think
[00:30:17.300]that that will continue to emerge.
[00:30:26.040]Brian, I have one.
[00:30:28.230]Do you have any data that would suggest
[00:30:31.120]how long the growers that were involved with these studies
[00:30:34.670]had implemented cover crops into their operation,
[00:30:39.350]prior to your study analysis?
[00:30:41.580]It's definitely over multiple years,
[00:30:45.780]so if I can think about my two case studies,
[00:30:50.610]really, how they've implemented tillage practices,
[00:30:53.990]one, it actually started in about 2003 to 2004
[00:30:57.580]when they started doing strip-tillage,
[00:30:59.870]and then that particular farmer
[00:31:01.380]started actually introducing cover crops
[00:31:04.890]into his operation in 2014,
[00:31:07.910]and he actually kind of went through a series
[00:31:10.910]where he was doing kind of broadcast cover crops,
[00:31:14.010]really didn't like the way that was working,
[00:31:16.540]and when he switched to a double-crop,
[00:31:19.290]or excuse me, a twin-row soybean planter,
[00:31:22.610]he actually began doing cover crops
[00:31:25.557]and twin rows in the fall,
[00:31:27.540]and then coming back and planting corn,
[00:31:29.720]doing a strip till in between the twin rows of cover crops,
[00:31:33.710]strip till and then planning his cash crop in between there,
[00:31:37.350]so 2014 to now, five years.
[00:31:40.690]The other farmer, going back to about 2011,
[00:31:47.420]going to all no-till,
[00:31:49.000]and then 2013 starting to incorporate cover crops,
[00:31:53.370]so about a five or six year process,
[00:31:56.230]and he went through
[00:31:57.800]kind of a gradual progression there as well.
[00:32:00.240]He was not planting green initially,
[00:32:02.790]not utilizing as many species in his cover-crop mix,
[00:32:06.860]but progressed to where he's planting green
[00:32:10.850]and using multi-species mixes,
[00:32:13.010]so there's definitely a progression there.
[00:32:18.730]Okay, one more question.
[00:32:25.990]From your experience,
[00:32:27.300]if you're, these guys that start like in '13
[00:32:30.410]and so on and so forth,
[00:32:32.290]have you noticed an increase in seed costs
[00:32:37.300]as they get more experienced,
[00:32:39.920]more comfortable with using the cover crops,
[00:32:42.760]and the effects of that?
[00:32:45.300]Did you see an increase per-acre cost because of that?
[00:32:51.700]You know, really, the seed costs didn't change
[00:32:55.510]in regards to before and after,
[00:32:57.760]looking at the before and after,
[00:32:59.630]with the cover crops.
[00:33:01.990]I know the one farmer definitely,
[00:33:04.470]and I think, going along with
[00:33:07.706]kinda the general track of things for soybeans,
[00:33:12.190]where overall general soybean seeding rates
[00:33:16.000]have gone down over time,
[00:33:18.060]that happened for those farmers
[00:33:19.960]but it really wasn't in relationship
[00:33:22.640]to cover cropping or other soil health practices,
[00:33:25.850]so as far as, in regards to seeding rates and cover crops,
[00:33:31.290]there really wasn't any impact on that.
[00:33:37.210]Okay, why don't we give Brian
[00:33:38.950]a round of applause
[00:33:39.783]for his presentation?
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