Pennsylvania farmers are protecting their soils, their bottom lines, and the state’s waterways by adopting conservation practices in their crop operations, according to a study commissioned by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.

“This report confirms the good work of Pennsylvania’s agriculturalists as stewards of our natural resources,” said Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. “It details producer sentiments, showing that they believe in the power of no-till crop farming for the health of their land. The results of this study are further proof that investments are being made to meet nutrient reduction goals for the Chesapeake Bay.”

The study, which was funded by the department and undertaken in 2014 by the Pennsylvania No-Till Alliance, will guide the Alliance in developing no-till production educational programming and services for the state’s farmers. It also provided the department with information on the conservation practices utilized by crop farmers. No-till production allows farmers to grow crops without disturbing the soil. This practice improves soil health by increasing organic matter while decreasing soil erosion.

The research project determined the level of no-till and best management practices (BMPs) of 497 Pennsylvania crop farmers, who attended Cooperative Extension seminars, crop producer meetings and other agricultural events. Data was obtained from across the commonwealth and the results highlighted BMPs employed by agricultural region.

The study found that 91 percent of respondents currently practice no-till production and use an average of 10 BMPs for reducing erosion and sedimentation. It also found that nearly all of those interviewed felt that their efforts toward environmental protection went unrecognized.

“The results are insightful and clearly speak to farmers’ commitment to their environments and to learning how to improve their operations,” added Redding. “This study substantiates that farmers are increasing their stewardship of our natural resources while continuing to meet the challenges of feeding a growing population. We need to recognize these efforts and ensure their good work is being counted toward our watershed obligations.”

Redding said that the department will analyze the report and work with the Alliance to determine how to implement the recommendations.

Recommendations include: implementing farmer-specific education that addresses no-till production; the publishing data from other agencies’ environmental protection and water quality efforts; and, raising awareness of how local conservation efforts impact larger watershed areas.