Economics of Soil Health Systems in Midwest Corn and Soy

Farmers and ranchers are businesspeople, and the questions that often present the most significant barrier to adoption of soil health management systems pertain to the business case. The Soil Health Institute interviewed 100 farmers in 9 states who have adopted soil health systems and used partial budget analysis to evaluate their economics and answer the following question:

Do soil health practices increase or reduce profitability?



farms assessed in states where 71%of the corn and 67% of the soybeans are grown in the U.S


reported increased crop resilience to extreme weather


Net income increased for 85% of farmers growing corn and 88% of farmers growing soybean


reported a higher yield than their conventional system


Reduced the average cost to grow corn by $24/acre and soybean by $17/acre


Increased net farm income by an average of $52/acre for corn and $45/acre for soybean

About the Research

The most desirable and robust information on how soil health affects profitability comes from real-world, on-farm data. However, a challenge is that every farm is different, making it difficult to know how repeatable results are from one farm to another. Insight into how reproducible results are across different soils, climate zones, and production systems can be obtained with replicated research plots; recognizing that research plots are very different from farms.

Consequently, the Institute is using a two-pronged approach for assessing profitability of soil health systems where the reality experienced by farmers is supplemented by results from nearby research sites. In each case, the Institute uses partial budget analysis as the tool for comparing expenses and returns in a soil health management system compared to a conventional management system.

A description of the partial budget analysis approach used by the Soil Health Institute can be found here.

100 Farm Report

Economics of Soil Health Systems on 100 Farms is supported through the generosity of Cargill.