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Healthy soil can help out crop yields, reduce chemical input needs, and take care of water quality according to Iowa State University, but how much farmers know about its benefits has not really been researched.
ISU Extension sociologist J. Gordon Arbuckle Jr. wanted to know, so he put together the 2015 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll, which is designed to find out farmers' beliefs about the benefits of soil health.
Arbuckle says knowing what farmers know can help guide research development and programs.
In the poll he found most of the nearly 1150 farmers who participated view healthy soils as beneficial: 93% agree it can lead to better crop yields, 77% thought it can reduce the risks of drought conditions, and 75% agree healthy soils can reduce crop input needs.
Farmers express concerns about production practices: 84% agree they are concerned about compaction on soil health and 70% have concerns of pesticides on soil health.
Most farmers say they are thinking more about soil health: 76% report they have taken steps to improve soil quality, 70% felt they understood soil health concepts, but 54% say they have effective soil health management plans.
Even though most respondents say they've seen more discussion of soil health in farm news only 46% of farmers noticed more discussion among fellow farmers.
Also, because half of Iowa's farmland is rented, the survey asked about landlord knowledge of soil health: the reviews were mixed, 28% of farmers agree that landlords know what farming practices improve soil health, while 27% disagreed, half were uncertain.
Arbuckle says a conclusion of the poll shows there's a demand for more research-based information on soil health.