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January 22, 2020

The Benefits of Investing in Farmland Infrastructure

Upgrading or installing new farming drainage systems can improve your bottom line while helping the environment.

Our nation’s farmland is a vital and finite resource that supports American families, as well as those across the world. Throughout the history of agriculture there have been many threats to the health of American farmland such as weather disturbances, urban sprawl, and chemical pollution. In response to these challenges, the agriculture industry has invested in the growth of farm technology and practices that help protect the land that we’ve come to depend on.

Technology that Protects Agricultural Land and Soil

A great example of this is the technology that helps support farmland infrastructure, specifically, drainage tiles and higher capacity pipes that reduce the risk of soil degradation. When placed strategically, the tiles direct water away from the fields and reduce the number of vital organisms and minerals that are lost. The technology options for farm and ranchland infrastructure that are available today far surpass what was once considered to be advance just 50 years ago.

According to a study conducted by Iowa State University, the existing infrastructure of most farms and ranches desperately need to be updated. Increased precipitation, as we have experienced in recent years, wears down the current drainage systems. “We have this enormous infrastructure investment that’s deteriorating and needs to be updated,” says Iowa State Professor of Agronomy Michael Castellano. “If we update it the right way, we can benefit crop production and the environment. If we don’t, it will be extremely difficult to meet agriculture’s water quality goals.” Using computer simulations and field experiments, these researchers found that improved infrastructure management produces significant gains in both environmental and financial resources.

The Environmental Benefits to Updating Land Drainage Systems

Soil health is an essential component of agriculture and producing quality food. Without efficient drainage, the soil can deteriorate in a number of ways, including soil erosion—where the loss of topsoil leads to an increased need for fertilizer and herbicides. When soil isn’t able to drain effectively, the microorganisms in the soil are starved for oxygen, which impedes nutrient cycling and ultimately can lead to reduced crop productivity and nutrient-deficient soil.

Conversely, with the use of more advanced drainage systems, the soil maintains its integrity and stays fertile. Instead of being oversaturated with water, the dryer soil has more space for oxygen, which allows deeper roots to form. With richer soil, farmers don’t need to use as much nitrogen fertilizer, which ultimately helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This dryer soil also releases less nitrous oxide.

Financial Benefits of Investing in Farm Technology for Soil Health

Besides being good for the environment, updated farmland infrastructure can lay the groundwork for long-term prosperity. With better soil, crop yields are greater, which produces more income. Properly drained soil also prevents potential damage to crops, as some diseases are known to develop in standing water. This keeps more crops viable and circumvents unnecessary loss of profit.

Improved drainage can also extend the growing season, allowing farmers to plant earlier and harvest longer. For farmers with large plots of land to cover, this can make an incredible difference to the bottom line. Muddy fields can cause a delay in planting or harvesting and can also damage or increase wear and tear on expensive equipment. Farmers who have lost valuable time know just how precious a few extra days of dry land can be.

Of course, installing farmland drainage can be costly—but experts argue that it’s an investment that pays for itself in time. One Ohio State University study showed that for every $1 spent on drainage technology, there was a return of $3 to $4 in soybean and corn profits (which were the commodities used for the study). In addition to increased returns, improved farmland infrastructure increases the sale value of your land, should you ever need or want to sell. Infrastructure improvements can also qualify for a tax write-off, which helps to offset upfront costs.

Forging into the Future

With all of the resources and technology available today, the potential for increased productivity, profitability, and sustainability is undeniable. Improved farmland drainage is an investment, but the environmental and financial benefits are incredibly enticing. Don’t let the installation cost be a deterrent—there are several resources available to you, including flexible loan options from the experts at AgAmerica Lending. Forge a path into a new and improved future for your farm, with healthier soil, increased productivity, and the satisfaction of knowing you’re doing your part to help the environment.

To learn more, speak with one of our local lending experts today.

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