Soil Health – We All Love It, But What Is It Worth?

Soil health gets a lot of air time. But have you ever thought about what it’s actually worth in dollars? That’s the question Tom Buman of Agren decided to answer. What he learned is that we can put a dollar value on healthy soil as well as the cost of erosion. Tom worked with a group of scientists to calculate the value of nutrients including the cost of fertilizer, the nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium the soil is providing. They looked at the topsoil, the upper 6 to 9" of soil. This is the soil that is richest in organic matter and darkest in color. By determining the nutrient content of the soil and how much it would cost to apply those same quantities of nutrients, they were able to estimate one aspect of the soil’s value. Next, Tom worked with Rick Cruse of Iowa State University to see how nutrients in soil translate into value based on production. Rick and his team took soil cores at 40 locations in each of numerous Iowa fields on 7 different farms. Then, they used precision data provided by combines harvesting those fields to track corresponding yields at those exact locations. They also looked at yield data from 2007-2013 to get a bigger picture. The fields Rick was tracking were

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