Farmers are adopting best management practices in record numbers, according to a survey just released by the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) and The Fertilizer Institute (TFI). The survey reached slightly less than 2,000 farmers nationwide to gain a better understanding of environmental management measures on U.S. farms and barriers to adoption. The respondents represent 2.5 million acres of farmed cropland.
“The results of this survey have provided us with knowledge of producer practices that will help us best identify how we can continue to increase adoption rates of best management practices and conservation practices,” said TFI President Ford B. West. “It is satisfying to know that 60 percent of those surveyed have fully-adopted nutrient management plans and indicators are positive that farmers are using the right nutrient product at the right time, right place and right rate.”
Survey respondents had an average of 29 years of farming experience and were typically 52 year-old males. Seventy-five percent of those answering the survey farm a corn-soybean rotation or a corn-soybean-wheat rotation. Seventy-nine percent had at least some college education.
“These survey results show that many farmers are actively engaged in conservation – in fact, conservation tillage was the most adopted practice among row crop producers,” said CTIC Executive Director Karen A. Scanlon. “We also have a clear picture about why some producers are not choosing conservation practices. That’s important because now we can better address their concerns and work to overcome those barriers.”
The comprehensive survey netted great results. The top messages taken from the survey follow.
Having a conservation plan is a key predictor of additional conservation behavior. More than half of row crop producers who responded to the survey have fully adopted:
· Conservation Tillage
· Nutrient Management
· Grassed Waterways
· Integrated Pest, Disease and Weed Management
Farmers indicated that financial assistance is mostly preferred over education and technical assistance, as related to best management practice adoption. In six of the 12 categories, including conservation buffers, GPS yield monitor, irrigation water management, precision agriculture, terraces, and water and sediment control basins, financial assistance was most-preferred.
The top four respected information sources cited are Cooperative Extension, certified crop advisers, agribusiness, and Natural Resources Conservation Service. Family members and local farming leaders rated amongst the lowest as preferred information sources.
A positive correlation exists between large scale farms and adoption of conservation tillage and no-till. The survey also showed that large landowners are more conservation-oriented than small landowners.
About half of farmer-respondents soil test according to state recommendations. Economic concerns and time were primary obstacles to not testing. Twenty-four percent of corn growers, 23 percent of soybean growers and 23 percent of wheat growers cited test costs as a reason they don’t soil test.
Based on this initial nationwide survey, CTIC and TFI anticipate conducting additional surveys that are state-specific, commodity-specific and with retailers across the country.
“This first survey will be used as a starting point in our efforts to better understand farmers’ use of nutrient management plans,” added West. “As this initiative grows, there’s no telling how much information we’ll collect that will help us create programs, materials and perhaps legislation to help implement nutrient management plans.”
CTIC and TFI worked with the Certified Crop Advisers (CCA) and the International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI) in developing the survey questions