American Farmland Trust (AFT) conducted a survey
of Midwest corn farmers centered on current
practices, attitudes and decision-making. The
survey found 42% of respondents want proof
of performance to change their current practices.
Interestingly, 80% would reduce their fertilizer
application rates if a program were available to
compensate them for any yield loss.
The new BMP CHALLENGE, formerly called the BMP
Performance Guarantee Program, is now available to
corn farmers. The program compensates farmers for
any yield loss incurred when farmers implement
fertilizer BMPs, reduce tillage, or implement corn
Fertilizer Best Management Practices (BMPs) are the
results of years of scientific research aimed at
reducing input costs and nutrient use to obtain
optimum returns over time. Occasionally, BMPs can
result in lower yields than conventional practices –
though these shortfalls are made up by reduced
annual input costs and comparable yields over time.
The survey was commissioned to attain useful
information in order to target outreach efforts for the
BMP CHALLENGE. Surveys were mailed to 10,000
Midwest corn farmers. The first 500 responses were
analyzed. Sixty-three percent of respondents were
over 50 years old; 54% had been farming for over 30
years. Almost all, 98 %, had at least a high school
diploma. On average participants reported planting
373 acres of corn, 327 acres of soybeans and 146
acres of other crops.
The survey found 89% of respondents are concerned
about potential harm to the environment from
over-application of fertilizer. The same number
would like the public to know about farmers’ efforts
to protect the environment.
The fertilizer BMP CHALLENGE is set-up to use each
state’s university recommendation for nutrient
applications. Survey results indicate that one-half of
the respondents believe their fertilizer application
rates are the same as university recommendations,
whereas one-third believe their rates are lower.
Fifty-four percent have reduced their fertilizer
applications over the past five years – 18% have
reduced rates by 15% or more.
The majority of respondents do not use advanced
strategies to determine fertilizer application rates.
Thirty-three percent use variable rate application for
nutrients, 37% use banded applications of fertilizer
and 12% use in-season testing such as pre-side
dress or late-season nitrogen testing. Eighty-four
percent reported reducing rates to account for
nitrogen credits in corn following soybeans, and 75%
reduce fertilizer to account for nutrients in manure.
Overall, the survey results have led to a better
understanding of potential participants in the BMP
CHALLENGE and will help structure the approach to
promoting the program.
The survey was conducted in November 2005 by
Strategic Marketing Services at the University of
Northern Iowa under a grant from the Great Lakes
Protection Fund to AFT.