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Considering Historical Land Use Study is Now Available

February 16, 2024

A new study released by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago Energy Resources Center evaluates environmental and economic impacts of land use change (LUC) for land that moves in and out of cropland over decadal time periods. The study aimed to determine land use and soil organic carbon stocks on 1,000 land parcels over a 36-year period.

“As part of this study, we conducted a historical analysis going back to 1985 and found that longer time intervals need to be considered when determining the environmental and economic impacts of land use change,” lead researcher Ken Copenhaver with CropGrowr LLC and co-author of the study, noted. “Notably, this is something that current regulations are not taking into consideration.”

Using advanced satellite imagery and aerial photography, the researchers discovered their findings challenge previous studies that primarily focused on shorter time intervals, often less than 10 years, when examining LUC. Out of the 1,000 land parcels analyzed, 371 parcels that were previously identified as land use change from native grasslands remained in cropland, while 611 parcels transitioned into non-cropland. Additionally, 18 parcels were identified as non-cropland. Interviews conducted with growers in these areas, some of whom were associated with LUC parcels, revealed that the most common reasons for returning land to crop were difficulties in re-enrolling land in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and reduced cattle prices. Surprisingly, increased demand was not a significant factor.

“The insight gained from this study helps us understand the long term impacts on land use and allows us to have the best data available when modeling the life cycle of corn,” stated Stan Nelson, Iowa Corn Promotion Board President.

The study was commissioned by state corn organizations in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, North Dakota, and South Dakota and Wisconsin. It provides valuable insights for policymakers, researchers, and stakeholders involved in land use planning and management. To access the full study, please click here. 

For More Information:

Rachel Zumbach, Public Relations Manager, rzumbach@iowacorn.org, 515-225-9242  

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