ISU Survey: Farmers make small increase in conservation

January 23, 2020

Wendong Zhang, Alejandro Plastina, Wendiam SawadgoThe Iowa Farmland Ownership and Tenure Survey conducted by Iowa State University suggests that adoption of conservation practices has increased slightly since 2012, and that ongoing trends in land ownership and management are likely barriers to a number of conservation practices.

“We focused on conservation practices credited in the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy as having good potential to reduce nutrient loss, and that are also more popular and familiar to landowners: no-till, cover crops, buffer strips and ponds or sediment basins,” said Wendong Zhang, assistant professor of economics, a co-author of the study, along with Alejandro Plastina, assistant professor in economics, and Wendiam Sawadgo, economics graduate student.

“We know that land tenure affects conservation adoption,” said Zhang, “but not always as expected. For example, 82 percent of farmland was owned debt-free in 2017—up from 78 percent in 2012 and 62 percent in 1982. But this did not seem to translate to more conservation.”