The global population is estimated to exceed 9 billion people by 2050, placing unprecedented pressure on American farmers to grow even more of the crops that clothe, fuel and feed the world. One way to help alleviate this pressure is to significantly improve soil health on cropland.
By adopting practices like planting winter cover crops and reducing—or better yet eliminating—tillage practices, farmers can significantly improve productivity of their fields, reduce soil erosion, improve water quality and increase carbon storage. In fact, agricultural soils are among the planet’s largest reservoirs (or sinks) of carbon. Improving soil on American croplands has the potential to mitigate 25 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. That’s the equivalent to taking 5 million passenger cars off the road for one year.
But how do we know if the adoption rate of these soil health practices, specifically cover crops and conservation tillage, is increasing? Before we can answer that question, we need to understand how many acres are currently managed with these practices (baseline data), and we need the ability to track progress over time.