Landowner Communications Are Critical to Successful Practice Changes or Conservation Projects

November 30, 2023  |  By ForGround by Bayer

As a farmer, you know what’s best for the land you manage, but does the landowner? And what about other key stakeholders like lenders and insurers? Keeping the lines of communication open can be key not only to successful practice changes, but also to future conservation projects.

Still, communication can be a loosely understood term that often goes overlooked. Let’s look at why you should keep others in the know about your management plans.

Add Value

From practicing no-till to planting cover crops, the bottom line is conservation practices improve soil health. But that’s not all land stewardship can do for your management portfolio. Conservation farming methods can have a significant impact on the value of land.

“We know that these practices focus on sustainable farming techniques that aim to protect and enhance the quality of soil over time,” explains Seth Spire, ForGround by Bayer Sustainable Systems Agronomist. “Healthy soils are more fertile and more often than not can support higher crop yields.”

Spire adds that increased productivity can also result in higher income, and, in turn, increase the overall value of that land.

Long-term sustainability is the end goal, and key steps in that journey include reducing soil erosion, nutrient depletion and the need for excessive inputs. For example, healthier soil can lead growers to being less reliant on inputs such as synthetic fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides.

Lower input costs can make farming more profitable simply by improving the bottom line.

“That could make land more valuable to a potential buyer or investor if they’re looking for a turnkey productive farm,” Spire says.

Assess Risk

Whether it’s risk assessment for a loan or an insurance policy, lenders and insurers alike want to know what might jeopardize the value of property. Poor soil health could signal less productivity, which, in turn, might affect the borrower’s ability to generate income to repay a loan or maintain an insurance policy premium.

“If a piece of land has poor soil quality, it might be more susceptible to crop failure due to erosion, drought or pests,” Spire explains. “That could result in higher insurance claims and payouts for those insurers.”

To help mitigate those potential obstacles, Spire says farmers might want to adjust insurance premiums based on total quality in the historical yield data of the land. Resale value should also be considered. Financial institutions and insurance companies might consider the long-term resale value of the land.

“A farm with good soil quality is more likely to maintain or actually appreciate in value over time, so that’s a factor they could take into account,” Spire says.

“A farm with good soil quality is more likely to maintain or actually appreciate in value over time, so that’s a factor they could take into account,” Spire says.

Investment Return

Regardless of the type of conservation practice you implement on rented or leased farmland, starting the conversation with the landowner and other key stakeholders can only help improve the productivity of your operation.

Management tools and analyses can be implemented to assist in telling the story of a given farm. According to Spire, a free public website called Web Soil Survey, available through the Natural Resources Conservation Service, provides detailed information for landowners, farmers and others who want to know more about the soil in their area.

“That will help a non-operating landowner understand what he or she might have in an owned farm or one they’re looking to buy,” Spire explains. “It gives important data such as corn suitability rating, which is important if we’re talking about production agriculture.”

Investment calculators can help factor in specific conservation practices and the potential impact those might have on inputs, yield improvements and even fuel savings, Spire says. Non-operating landowners can then use the information to estimate the financial benefits of a specific practice. “Satellite and remote sensing tools are available to show farmers things like crop health, soil moisture and other relevant data,” Spire says.

“Within Bayer, precision ag software called Climate Field View provides insights into crop performance, input optimization and yield data. That kind of software can help landowners track changes in yield and input costs over time.”

Spire adds that farmers should consult with an agronomist or other expert to gain insight on sustainable agriculture, crop genetics, seed and crop protection products.

Adding value to farmland through conservation practices provides opportunity to not only boost your bottom line, but also earn you a greater return on investment. But remember, keep the lines of communication open with landowners and stakeholders so that all parties are educated on the value of the property now and into the future.

This article was written by Trust In Food in collaboration with Bayer.