; Risk Reduction through Healthy Soils in the Corn Belt | Conferences | AgRisk Library


Conference Name Risk Reduction through Healthy Soils in the Corn Belt

Collin Weigel


Collin Weigel
Governments and non-profit organizations spend billions of dollars annually on sustainable agricultural programs, but these programs are rarely designed based on trials of what works. Programs instead default to information campaigns or financial incentives with unknown efficacy. Moreover, programs have largely ignored new behavioral interventions (e.g., nudges). To fill this gap, we are conducting a large field experiment to evaluate how information, a nudge, and a financial incentive can promote adoption of cover crops on rented cropland in the US Corn Belt. The experiment targets owners of rented cropland--non-operator landowners (NOLS)--because the majority of land in priority areas for conservation and agriculture is rented. Yet, most programs target the operator (i.e., farmer). To enroll NOLS in the trial, we sent mailers to 30,000+ NOLS in Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa. The result was 2,223 eligible NOLS controlling 750,000 acres enrolled. NOLS received one of three treatments: a folder with information only, information plus example lease language (nudge), or information plus the example lease addendum language and a $1,500 financial incentive. We will evaluate the experiment using remote sensing of cover crops planted in late summer or fall of 2018. We use a survey to collect descriptive data on the behavioral pathway and barriers toward planting cover crops. Recruitment results also allow us to evaluate an embedded messaging experiment. The collaborative trial program will deliver research results (what interventions work) and conservation results (cover crops planted) simultaneously, providing a model for integrating science and practice.