The effects of farmer attitudes and farm management practices on soil quality: a study in Cherokee County, Iowa
This study seeks to relate farmer attitudes, perceptions, and management characteristics to field soil quality and laboratory fertility indicators. Farmer interviews were conducted to document recent practices on the farm as well as farmer attitudes about farming. To obtain soil quality measures, both the Natural Resource Conservation Service's field soil quality kit and laboratory tests were employed. Sites from the eastern half of Cherokee County, Iowa, were selected.;Key considerations of this study included farmer practices of renting versus owning land and organic or synthetic nitrogen application. Additional farmer data, including attitudes about farming, are used in this analysis.;In our study, farmers with longer farming experience had access to larger acreages. Also farmers with larger farms tended to adopt no till systems. When asked how they would change their operation if provided with unlimited resources, farmers who make decisions based upon simplicity and economics are more likely to continue their operation as is, while those who use experience, trial and error, as well as experimentation as their primary decision making tools are more likely to scale back their operations.;It was observed that ownership was not directly an influencing factor in shaping soil quality. However, some of the farmers' traits and attributes led to management activities that significantly impacted selected soil quality and fertility indices. The use of organic and inorganic amendments had not led to significantly different potassium or phosphorus levels in the fields. Fields of farmers with large acreages had lower microbial respiration and higher pH. The no-till systems adopted by farmers with large acreages were associated with soils with higher bulk density. Farmers who viewed farming as only labor or management had fields with higher bulk densities and nitrate levels than those who viewed farming as a multifaceted profession. Additionally, farmers who enjoyed farming had fields with lower bulk densities than those who farmed simply to make a living.