A survey of producers in central and eastern South Dakota showed a majority of those who used no-tillage and reduced tillage practices for five years or more have seen increases in profitability through decreased production costs and increases in cash crop yields.

“The longer producers use these practices, the more likely they are to see the benefits of improved soil health,” said assistant professor Tong Wang of South Dakota State University’s Ness School of Management and Economics.

Wang is part of a team of researchers analyzing data on the short- and long-term benefits of adopting soil and water conservation practices gathered through the 2018 South Dakota Commodity Crop Producer Survey.

Conservation tillage involves covering at least 30 percent of the soil surface with crop residue, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Resources Conservation Service. For the survey, the researchers included reduced or strip tillage in their definition of conservation tillage.

“Conservation tillage reduces soil erosion and increases water infiltration and soil carbon storage,” Wang explained.

An article on conservation tillage adoption and reported benefits among South Dakota producers was published in the January/February issue of the Journal of Soil and Water Conservation.

The survey was conducted by SDSU researchers. The research is funded by South Dakota Corn Utilization Council and USDA NRCS to evaluate how farmers perceive the benefits of conservation farming practices, such a conservation tillage, cover crops and diversified crop rotation plans, and how these practices are reducing the industry’s carbon footprint.

Among the 708 producers who responded to the survey, more than 75 percent had adopted conservation tillage practices. The respondents farmed an average of 1,150 acres with the market value of their agricultural products in the $325,000 to $350,000 range. The respondents were an average of 56.6 years old with 27 years of farming experience.

See full story in this week’s Leader-Courier.