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How To Price A Conservation Plan
If you’re considering adding a conservation practice or feature to your farm, an Iowa-based engineering service can help. The company, Agren, does remote engineering and pricing of conservation practices. The only catch is that the land needs to be LiDAR mapped. LiDAR data shows exact elevations of land at 8,000 data points per acre.
  “I expect that 80 to 90 percent of all crop land from central Nebraska to the East Coast has been LiDAR mapped,” says Tom Buman, Agren. “The problem is that LiDAR data acquisition is a hodgepodge system with multiple agencies in a state involved. It varies from county to county.”
  Winona County, Minn., where I live, has been LiDAR mapped so I recently asked Buman to demonstrate his PondBuilder software. I was interested in putting in a pond on my 75-acre farm. Using the LiDAR map of the farm and his proprietary conservation planning software, it took him only a few minutes to identify and analyze the site. A few minutes more and he was able to produce a computer image of the pond, dam and a full description with estimated costs of construction.
  Under NRCS guidelines, the steep wooded slopes of the 222.7-acre drainage area required a 37-ft. tall dam with a top width of 15 ft. It would require 165 ft. of 18-in. dia. pipe and excavating 546 cubic yards of dirt for the basin. Then I would have to find another 34,000 cubic yards for fill.
  Granted I would have had a beautiful 3-acre pond with a maximum depth of 30 ft. Unfortunately, Buman told me the total cost would run $92,720, and it would be silted in in 35 years. Then there was the 34,000 cubic yards of dirt that would have to be scraped off the fields below.
  I didn’t even have to look over the 11 pages of data his computer sent my way to know I probably wouldn’t proceed. But then, that is part of the beauty of Buman’s software. It takes him minutes to do what NRCS engineers would require days to do by hand...once they got to me, which is part of the problem Buman is trying to solve.
  “NRCS can only provide technical assistance to a small percentage of farmers each year,” he says. “There are simply not enough technicians to help farmers get needed conservation practices on the ground.”
  In addition to PondBuilder, Buman offers software for designing waterways, wetlands and basins to trap and hold water and sediment. And the company’s SoilCalculator lets clients plug in various crop rotations, tillage systems and conservation practices to compare erosion predictions for up to three scenarios.
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Agren, 1238 Heires Ave., Carroll, Iowa 51401 (ph 712 792-6248; toll free ph 844 653-2528; info@agrentools.com; www.agrentools.com).

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2016 - Volume #40, Issue #5