Every year, the Crawford Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) conducts an annual cropland tillage survey across Crawford County. This survey, which has been ongoing since 1987, offers invaluable insights into the evolving landscape of agriculture in the region. By driving a predetermined route and collecting data at specific points, the SWCD is able to track long-term trends in crop selection, tillage methods, and planting techniques. This year’s survey has brought some interesting shifts to light, particularly in the realm of conservation tillage and crop choices.
Soybeans Still Reign, But Numbers Are Shifting
Soybeans continue to be the dominant crop in Crawford County, occupying 44.2% of row crop acres. However, this marks a decrease of 5.1% compared to 2022. Corn follows closely behind, covering 35.9% of row crop acres, also showing a slight decrease of 2.1% from the previous year. Wheat remains a smaller player, accounting for just 6.8% of row crop acres, down by a marginal 0.1% from 2022.
The decline in percentages for these major crops could be indicative of farmers diversifying their portfolios or possibly making room for alternative, perhaps more sustainable, crops. The data prompts questions about the driving forces behind these changes. Are market demands shifting? Are farmers adopting new strategies for crop rotation to improve soil health? Or are external factors like climate change influencing these decisions?
A Growing Focus on Sustainability
One of the most striking findings from the 2023 survey is the increase in conservation tillage practices. A total of 57.9% of row crop acres were found to be in conservation tillage, which includes either no-till methods or tillage that leaves more than 30% of crop residue after planting. Specifically, 81.7% of soybean acres were planted with more than 30% residue, although this is a 4.2% decrease from last year. Corn followed at 20.6%, down by 2.9%.
Soybeans also led in the no-tillage category, with 45.8% of soybean acres being no-tilled, a significant increase of 15.0% from 2022. In contrast, no-till corn acres decreased from 14.5% in 2022 to 10.8% in 2023. The growing adoption of no-till methods, particularly for soybeans, suggests a heightened awareness of sustainable farming practices among Crawford County’s agricultural community.
The Implications of the 2023 Survey
The annual cropland tillage survey serves as a barometer for agricultural trends in Crawford County. The 2023 data reveals a complex picture of shifting crop choices and a growing emphasis on sustainable farming practices. While the percentages may fluctuate year-to-year, the long-term data offers invaluable insights for farmers, policymakers, and conservationists alike.
As the world grapples with the challenges of climate change, food security, and sustainable land use, the information gathered by the Crawford SWCD becomes increasingly vital. It not only informs local agricultural decisions but also contributes to a broader understanding of how farming practices are evolving in the face of global challenges.
For those interested in more detailed survey data, the Crawford SWCD office can be reached at 419-562-8280, extension #3.