Submitted to: Georgia Water Resources Conference
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/12/2005
Publication Date: 4/25/2005
Citation: Reeves, D.W., Norfleet, M.L., Schomberg, H.H., Hawkins, G.L. 2005. Conservation tillage in Georgia: economics and water resources. Georgia Water Resources Conference.
Technical Abstract: In 2003, Georgia planted 3.2 million acres of field crops, with a production value of $1.32 billion. The Conservation Technology Information Center (C.T.I.C.) at Purdue University estimated in 2002 that only 31% of cotton, 28% of corn, 39% of soybean, 20% of small grains, 21% of sorghum, and 11% of remaining crops (which include peanut) in Georgia were planted with some form of conservation tillage. Thus, there is great potential to increase the adoption of conservation tillage in the state, with consequent economic and environmental benefits. Factors affected by soil management that directly impact producer profitability are yields, labor and management inputs, equipment investments, fuel, pesticides, and harvest and processing costs. Factors that are more difficult to quantify, but that need to be taken into consideration are on-site and off-site environmental costs and benefits, including impacts on water resources. The cost of water loss from water-eroded soil and off-site costs of erosion on water quality and quantity combined has been reliably estimated at $8.75 per ton of water-eroded soil. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) estimates that conservation tillage can reduce soil erosion by 8.1 ton/acre/year. Combining these estimates indicates the value of conservation tillage associated with erosion reduction alone is worth $70.88/acre/year. The current benefit to water resources in Georgia from use of conservation tillage to control erosion is thus estimated at $65 million/year. The estimated potential economic benefit from reduced erosion impacts on Georgia's water resources as a result of conservation tillage adoption on all 3.2 million acres of field crops is $227 million/year. The economic benefits of conservation tillage in relation to conservation of water resources extends well beyond the ability of conservation tillage to control erosion. Research has demonstrated that conservation tillage increases infiltration, decreases evaporation, and reduces irrigation costs, in addition to controlling erosion. Conservation tillage warrants recognition as a cost-effective practice to conserve Georgia's water resources.