Project at a Glance

Many farmers believe the scientific evidence that soil health practices improve soil and water quality, but they may be reluctant to change management techniques without knowing how it will impact their bottom line. So, AFT regional staff and our partners try to take out some of the guess work by conducting cost-benefit analyses on the operations of “soil health successful” producers.

AFT uses partial budget analysis to estimate an average annual change in net income that farmers experienced when investing in soil health practices (e.g., no-till, reduced tillage, cover crops, conservation crop rotation, nutrient management, compost application, and mulching). AFT’s Excel-based Retrospective Soil Health Economic Calculator (R-SHEC) Tool helps users conduct a partial budget analysis comparing farmer costs and benefits before and after practice adoption. We also use USDA’s Nutrient Tracking Tool and USDA’s COMET-Farm Tool to quantify the water quality and climate benefits of these practices.

We produce two-page case studies that we hope will be useful to farmers and landowners who are curious about soil health practices; to give them confidence that investing in the practices is worth the risk.

AFT offers free access to case study tools, materials, and associated training documents in the Soil Health Case Study Tool Kit so members of the conservation community can produce their own case studies in their own areas. Currently, our R-SHEC Tool works only for row crop farmers (growing barley, corn grain, corn silage, grain sorghum, hay, oats, soybeans, and/or wheat) and almond growers.

This project is supported by multiple grants, including the original 2018-2021 USDA Conservation Innovation Grant, and the case studies are co-branded by the Natural Resources Conservation Service.