Conservation Farming in the U.S. Corn Belt: Farmer Perceptions of Soil Health and the Adoption of Cover Crops

Authors: Lillian Cobo*, Northern Illinois University, Courtney Gallaher, Northern Illinois University, Michael Konen, Northern Illinois University
Topics: Agricultural Geography, Human-Environment Geography, Environmental Science
Keywords: Agriculture, Cover Crops, Soil Health
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The benefits of cover crops are widely recognized by those interested in conservation agriculture and soil health. These benefits include soil erosion control, nutrient loss reduction, and overall improvement of soil health. However, while these benefits are well-documented, the adoption rate of cover crops in the American Corn Belt remains astoundingly low. While some studies have attempted to determine the reasons for this low adoption rate, the information relating to how farmer perceptions of soil health impact cover crop adoption is almost nonexistent. Furthermore, there is a clear absence of mixed method studies in the literature relating to this subject. This study takes an alternative approach by focusing on the relationship of soil health perceptions to cover crop adoption, and by utilizing both qualitative and quantitative data. We conducted surveys and in-depth interviews with grain farmers throughout the U.S. Corn Belt that centered on land management, and specifically the relationship of soil health to cover crop adoption. Survey and interview data were paired with quantitative soil health data to provide more substantiated conclusions. Research is ongoing and will spread light on the ongoing issue of incorporating cover cropping techniques into the largely conventional agricultural system of the U.S. Corn Belt.

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