Would you like to be less stressed? Have more fun? No, the answer is not buying a cheap plane ticket to a tropical destination. But a recent survey of South Dakota farmers and ranchers found that growers who use practices that improve soil health experienced less stress, were more satisfied with farming and are more optimistic about the future.

We often look at the easily quantified benefits of soil health practices, including cover crops, no-till, diverse cropping rotations, etc. But there are other benefits that we usually don’t even think about—and sometimes, those non-tangible benefits just might be what helps you sleep better at night.

Using cover crops to increase the water-holding capacity of soil, shading the ground to prevent moisture loss through evaporation, and improving soil structure are some of the less-discussed benefits of cover crops, but they can make a big difference to your bottom line, as found in this survey conducted by South Dakota State University, in partnership with the South Dakota Soil Health Coalition and supported by NRCS.

I recently heard a presentation by Chris Kucharik, agronomy professor at the University of Wisconsin. He spoke about how cover crops can help growers meet some of the agriculture industry’s key challenges, including being able to bounce back more quickly from extreme weather events, which will be more frequent due to the changing climate.

These survey results seem to signal that growers who use cover crops and other soil health practices will be ready to get back to the business of farming more quickly after an extreme weather event.

The numbers from the survey stacked up quite favorably to encouraging the use of soil health practices:

  • 31% of growers who use soil health practices reported increased profitability during the last year, compared to 12% of conventional producers;
  • 69% of growers who use soil health practices predicted increased farm profitability in the next 3-5 years, compared to 36% of conventional producers;
  • 83% of growers who use soil health practices predicted that their farms were more resilient to weather extremes, compared to 60% of conventional producers;
  • 30% of growers who use soil health practices described their 2019 year as “challenging but fun”, compared to 12% of conventional producers.

You can view the whole survey report here. What do you think about what this survey says? Are cover crops going to have you ready for increased profitability in the future? Feel free to send me an email and let me know what you think.