Indiana farmers continued a shift to less intensive tillage practices from 2012 to 2017 according to data from the recently released US Census of Agriculture.  Farmers reported shifting nearly 1 million acres statewide from conventional tillage practices to conservation tillage practices, a nearly 33% increase from 2012.  Conservation tillage practices generally result in less disturbance of the soil and leave greater amounts of plant residue, reducing the risk of soil erosion and nutrient loss from their fields.

Farmers also reported increasing the number of acres of cover crops planted across the state.  Nearly 1 million acres were reported planted according to the 2017 data, a 57% increase from the 2012 census.  Cover crops effectively reduce soil erosion and improve nutrient retention and cycling in the soil, improving soil health by protecting the soil surface and keeping living roots through more of the growing season.

“Farmers recognize the value of protecting their soil and fertilizer investments through reducing tillage and adding cover crops into their rotation,” according to Indiana Agriculture Nutrient Alliance executive director Ben Wicker. “There’s also opportunity for reduced fuel and labor costs associated with making one less pass or reducing the intensity of tillage pass.”

“Paired with a sound plan for nutrient management and applying fertilizer and manure according to 4R principles – Right Rate, Right Source, Right Place, Right Time, farmers can improve their bottom lines and reduce potential nutrient impacts to water through reduced tillage and increasing living green cover.  The census data confirms positive trends of farmers continuing to adopt these practices with the support of their trusted advisors and conservation partners.”

The Indiana Agriculture Nutrient Alliance is dedicated to keeping Indiana at the forefront of proactive nutrient management and soil health practices that improve farm viability and, ultimately, reduce nutrient loss to water. Learn more at