The Influence Of Conservation Agriculture In The US Corn Belt

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INTRODUCTION With over 50% of the global land surface being affected by land use or land cover change over the last few hundred years, mostly from the expansion of agriculture, there has been numerous climatic impacts (Foley, 2005). With such vast areas, specifically of the US Corn Belt, dedicated to agricultural production it is imperative that we as a society approach this endeavor cautiously. One approach to agriculture often cited as having the potential to produce the food, feed, and fiber necessary to sustain us with minimal disturbance to surrounding ecosystems is referred to as conservation agriculture (CA). CA as defined by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), is an approach to farming that “aims …show more content…
2009) while the effectiveness of any practice, or suite of practices, is limited by farmer’s willingness of implementation. There have been many regionally specific studies looking at the correlation of variables such as farmer age, education level, land tenure, off-farm activity, and farm size with willingness to adopt CA techniques. (Pampel and van Es 1977; Garciá-Torres et al. 2003) However, identification of the underlying latent variables influencing farmer implementation of CA is lacking (Knowler and Bradshaw 2007; Daluglu et al. 2014). Therefore the objectives of this paper are to introduce the potential benefits and perceived costs of CA in the US Corn Belt and explore the interaction of CA and climate.

POTENTIAL BENEFITS OF CONSERVATION AGRICULTURE Society as a whole is set to receive many benefits from the use of CA from decreased sediment and eutrophication in rivers and streams (Hobbs 2007) to mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions contributing to climate change (Lal, 1998). Individual farmers are also set to receive benefits from the practice of CA from fuel savings to increases in soil organic matter and soil fertility. However, the spatial and temporal scales of these benefits are highly variable and are difficult to establish (Tillman, 2002).

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One of the major hurdles for adaptation of these CA practices is that the costs, both financially as well as time commitments, are placed upon the individual farmer whereas the short-term and long-term benefits go to society (i.e. down stream water quality and climate change). The farmer must often wait for longer periods (several years) to realize the positive impacts that have been made directly on their farms (improved yields, water storage,

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