The Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll is an annual survey of Iowa farmers that collects and circulates information across Iowa and the Midwest.
The 2016 poll results, show numerous soil and water conservation best management practices are widely used by Iowa farmers, and more are being considered.
Completed surveys were received from 1,039 farmers, resulting in a response rate of 50 percent. On average, participants were 65 years old.
“The Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll is a great tool to gauge what farmers are thinking and I appreciate the continued focus by the poll on conservation and water quality efforts,” said Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey.
Among in-field practices listed, no-till was the most common, with 42 percent reporting use of the practice. Conservation tillage, excluding no-till and strip tillage, was second most-common at 35 percent.
Nitrogen stabilizer use was reported by 38 percent of respondents, followed by growing season nitrogen application.
Buffers along streams or field edges to filter nutrients and sediment from runoff were the most commonly reported structural practice, with 46 percent of farmers indicating they used them.
About 26 percent of farmers reported they had increased their use of “conservation tillage” methods.
The greatest change was reported in use of “precision agriculture practices such as variable rate fertilizer application,” with 34 percent reporting either moderate or major increases in the practice.
44 percent of respondents reported moderate or major increases in practices to improve soil health.
36 percent increased their use of tile or other drainage, and 35 percent had increased use of structural conservation practices such as terraces, buffer strips, or grassed waterways. 20 percent reported increased cover crop use.
“Overall, the results on conservation practice use indicate that since the 2013 introduction of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy, many Iowa farmers have been increasing their use of recommended practices that can reduce loss of nutrients into waterways,” J. Gordon Arbuckle, Jr., ISU Extension sociologist, wrote in the poll summary.
“We all recognize that we still have a lot of work to do, but the engagement by Iowa farmers and their willingness to make investments to better protect water quality is very encouraging,” Northey said.