Today’s guest post is by Marty Adkins, Assistant State Conservationist for Iowa Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), a member of the Iowa Learning Farms Steering Committee.
Iowa’s soils are globally precious and unique. These soils are the cornerstone of a vibrant and productive farming sector and make Iowa’s overall economy strong. Protecting and building the productive capacity of Iowa’s soils is essential to Iowa’s future. Happily, many of the same practices that help protect and build soils also have a positive impact on water quality. This is especially true of cover crops, crop rotations that include small grains and forages, and no-tillage and strip-tillage planting.
The widespread adoption of cover crops will require increased availability of seed and seeding equipment. There are new business opportunities related to the growing, cleaning, transportation, sales and custom planting of cover crop seed. Iowa’s farm machinery industry can continue to design, build, sell and service equipment needed for cover crop seeding and management, and increased adoption of no-till and strip-till.
There are other farm business opportunities to consider when it comes to conservation farming practices. Cover crops and extended rotations could provide more grazing for more livestock in more places, with more small-town businesses selling all needed goods and services to livestock farms.
In addition to increased economic activity in the farm and industrial sectors, there are other economic benefits to be gained from conservation practices. An Iowa countryside that is green nearly all year-round, with the land covered and protected, would be a more attractive landscape for Iowa residents, and could attract visitors and new entrepreneurs.
Economic research shows that cleaner streams and lakes result in increased recreational opportunities (swimming, canoeing, boating, and fishing) and more tourism to towns and cities associated with these amenities. More dollars stay in Iowa when Iowans vacation and recreate within the state.
The environmental benefits associated with better soil management are well documented. But improved soil management can also contribute to Iowa’s economic well-being, now and long into the future.