Annual conservation practices survey: A look at the numbers


By Steve Richter, agricultural strategies director, The Nature Conservancy

Members of Western Wisconsin Conservation Council complete a survey each winter to gauge interest in soil health practices. It’s an annual recap of the number of farmers using conservation practices on their fields and a tally of total acres of each practice. In this article, I’ll share some highlights from 2019. In your next newsletter, I will talk more specifically about how the practices farmers are using are keeping soil and phosphorus from entering our waters.

I first want to say that it was great to see the progress that member farmers made in 2019 trying new practices and increasing the acres of other conservation practices, as well as the robust attendance figures seen at field days and winter meetings. Congrats to all of you who hosted or attended an event and/or used conservation practices in 2019! One take-away I had from reviewing the numbers is that more farmers are using conservation practices, and the total number of acres increased.

Thirty of the 40 members of the Western Wisconsin Conservation Council filled out the survey in 2019. Here are some highlights: nine members planted with strip/conservation tillage on 8,500 acres in 2019 and ten members no-till planted on10,390 acres. Fifteen members in the group reported 24,300 acres were under a nutrient management plan. WWCC hopes to offer farmers opportunities to learn how to write their own plans in 2020. Of note, 10,725 acres of cover crop plantings from 15 members was reported in 2019. Seventeen members used split nitrogen application of fertilizer on 11,300 acres in 2019.

It’s great to see so many farmers completing the annual survey. The numbers demonstrate the effort farmers are making to improve soil health and reduce soil and nutrients leaving fields.