West Central Indiana Farmers & Landowners are very fortunate to have one of the best agricultural schools in their backyard: Purdue University. The school is renowned for their research and innovation. Recently, the school of agriculture was awarded a $10 million grant from the USDA to study diversification practices in the corn belt.
Linda Prokopy, Department Head & Professor of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture at Purdue, will direct the diversification research project. (We had the pleasure of discussing cover crops with Linda in a previous story; you can read the article here.) The data collected will be obtained from the I-states within the corn belt: Illinois, Iowa, and Indiana. The study term runs from September 2021 to August 2026. You can read the project description in its entirety here: https://portal.nifa.usda.gov/web/crisprojectpages/1027512-diversecornbelt-resilient-intensification-through-diversity-in-midwestern-agriculture.html
This research will evaluate current practices to ascertain whether corn belt farms would benefit from diversification. The study will consist of environmental research (the effect of current practices on watersheds, air quality, & soil quality), economic conditions/outlook, general practices/traditions, etc.
“In addition to standard agronomic soil fertility measurements, we will measure the following soil health indicators: penetration resistance, bulk density, nitrogen mineralization rate, carbon mineralization rate, and aggregate stability. Insect community indicators measured will include: predator diversity and abundance, pest suppression, and pollinator diversity/abundance. Water quality measures taken will include: groundwater recharge, and water quality (N and P in groundwater).”
The goal of this study is to understand the costs versus benefits of diversification within agriculture as well as identify and address any barriers to implementation (both social and economic). The results of this study will be used to help guide policies and education toward transitioning toward implementation of diversification and conservation practices.
Nearly 15 million acres are utilized for farm operations in the state of Indiana, or 64% of the state’s entire land area. Crops in Indiana account for over $11 billion in production value. In recent years, farmers have been embracing conservation practices, predominantly minimum/no till and cover crops. And, the data doesn’t lie: the institution of these practices improves soil quality and crop resiliency, thus resulting in higher yields and increased profits for farmers & increased land value for landowners.
ISDA, Indiana State Department of Agriculture, has been collecting their own data on conservation practices since 1990. Since that time, there’s been a dramatic shift in the adoption of conservation practices in Indiana.
Here at Land Values, we’ve spoken with many farmers and landowners that have shown an increased willingness to modify their practices and integrate conservation practices into their farming operations.
We’ve also met and toured farms in West Central Indiana where growers have adopted a wide range of cover crop species to improve soil health, as well as organic food crops such as corn, peas, barley, and soybeans.
Landowners are stewards of the land; the choices they make will impact future generations. Utilizing practices like diversification, cover crops, and minimum/no tillage greatly improve soil quality. One of the best indicators of the value of cropland is its productivity, and a key way to measure productivity is through soil quality.