Midwestern farmers soon can earn compensation for conservation practices thanks to a new partnership between the Illinois Soybean Association, the Soil and Water Outcomes Fund and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

An $8.5 million Regional Conservation Partnership Program Alternative Funding Arrangement award, courtesy of USDA-NRCS, funds the project, which is one of 15 funded nationwide.

ISA will work in partnership with the Indiana Soybean Alliance, Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council, Missouri Corn Merchandising Council, ReHarvest Partners, Nutrien Ag Solutions and PepsiCo to produce water quality and climate outcomes resulting from new conservation practice implementation on 70,000 acres annually in 2022 and 2023.

At that acreage, the project estimates 1.82 million pounds of nitrogen reduction, 112,000 pounds of phosphorus reduction and 105,000 tons of CO2e sequestration.

RCCP funding will be used to pay for the verified water quality outcomes while partner contributions from Nutrien Ag Solutions and PepsiCo will pay for the verified carbon reductions from enrolled cropland.

Created jointly and managed by the Iowa Soybean Association and Washington, D.C.-based Quantified Ventures, the Soil and Water Outcomes Fund uses investment capital to compensate farmers for positive environmental outcomes generated by conservation-oriented practices on their farms, specifically water quality improvement and enhanced carbon sequestration. These outcomes are independently quantified and then purchased by government entities and private corporations.

Working with the fund and USDA “is a unique opportunity to understand how farmers are able to participate in an ecosystem market while ensuring their needs and the principles behind sustainable farming practices are put first,” ISA Director of Agronomy Abigail Peterson said. “We are looking forward to this new partnership and being able to bring the opportunity to not only our Illinois farmers, but to farmers across the Midwest.”

SCN test

The best time to test for soybean cyst nematode is right after the soybean harvest.

Missouri farmers can submit two free tests to SCN Diagnostics through county University of Missouri Extension centers or directly to the laboratory, MU Extension plant pathologist Kaitlyn Bissonnette said.

SCN Diagnostics is a plant and nematode screening service based in the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.

United Soybean Board checkoff dollars fund the free tests as part of efforts by the SCN Coalition to raise awareness of the pest.

SCN is the No. 1 soybean pest in the U.S., accounting for more than $1.2 billion in crop losses per year.

SCN began spreading quickly through Missouri in the 1970s and gained a foothold in most of the state’s soybean-growing counties by the 1990s. SCN is easily transported in soil, and the cysts and eggs spread via equipment, water and wind.

SCN populations are becoming increasingly resistant to PI 88788, the breeding line in SCN-resistant soybean varieties, which makes it critically important to sample for SCN egg counts every three to five years, Bissonnette said.

SCN symptoms include stunted growth and yellowing, but yield loss can happen even when there are no visible symptoms, Bissonnette said.

Ways to manage SCN include testing fields to know the numbers, rotating resistant varieties, rotating to non-host crops and using a nematode-protectant seed treatment.

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