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Science in action to improve the sustainability of agriculture, natural resources, and food systems
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Economic Costs and Benefits of Soil Improvement Practices

The proposed study will address the priority topic area of biologically-intensive and organic approaches to sustainable management of soil quality, particularly focusing on the economic valuation of soil improvement practices. To do this, we will combine information from producer focus groups, a literature search, and field measurements to estimate the benefits and costs of soil improvement practices. Three soil-improvement approaches will be analyzed: adding soil amendments (e.g. compost, manure); using cover crops/green manures; and high residue farming and reduced tillage. Three focus groups will be held that cover these approaches, with at least 4 producers participating in each group. This will provide information on the cost and benefits of these practices. Following the focus groups, a literature search will determine the ranges and relevant factors for the producer-identified benefits. These benefits will also be verified through paired field sampling on up to 12 farms where various measures of soil quality will be measured on fields with and without soil improvement practices. Using the collected information, we will conduct an economic analysis utilizing gross margin and investment analysis approaches to provide growers with an estimate of the value of various soil improvement practices for different crops and soils. The results will be incorporated into both a peer-reviewed paper and an Extension bulletin. Finally, the results will be disseminated through presentations and a soils conference.

Grant Information

  • Project ID: 132
  • Project Status: Complete

2014

  • Principal Investigator(s): McGuire, A.
  • Investigator(s): Galinato, S., Granatstein, D., Tozer, P.
  • Grant Amount: $33439

2015

  • Principal Investigator(s): McGuire, A.
  • Investigator(s): Galinato, S., Granatstein, D., Tozer, P.
  • Grant Amount: $3000
  • 2015 Progress Report

Publications

We recorded audio and slides from the Dec. 10th conference (see below) speakers. Edited
videos of the presentations are available online at http://csanr.wsu.edu/programareas/bioag/bioag-conferences-proceedings/soils/
 We have submitted a draft Extension publication on the results of the soils analysis to the
WSU publishing system.
 We have prepared a draft Extension publication on the economics analysis that will be
submitted to the WSU publishing system by early July 2016.
 We have drafted a paper on the results of the economic study we did. We submitted it to
one journal, but they would not publish it. We plan to submit it to another journal by Fall
2016.

Additional Funds Leveraged

We applied for an USDA-AFRI grant, Agriculture Economics and Rural Communities, but were not asked
to submit a full proposal.

Impacts

Short-Term: Farmer cooperators have gained an increased understanding of the economic value
of their soil building efforts and the changes that those efforts have made on their soils.
• Intermediate-Term: Farmers participating in our events reported using organic amendments on
over 18,000 acres, green manures on over 22,000 acres, and high residue farming on over
25,000 acres in 2015. A majority reported that WSU efforts have led to them increasing use of
these practices.
• Long-Term: Growers report that soil improvement practices help them control wind erosion,
increase yields, and lower fertilizer costs.