Land Tenure and Conservation in Agriculture

Why Our Work is Needed

Agricultural land management decisions are situated within a complex and interconnected system, influenced by a suite of social and economic factors, many of which are difficult to control. Landowners can, but often don’t, take it upon themselves to drive stewardship of their land. Funded by the Walton Family Foundation, the Delta Institute has focused on land ownership and tenure as levers to increase conservation and rebuild soil health in the Midwest, where over 50 percent of the agricultural land is leased. 


Brief Overview of What We’re Doing

In 2019, Delta Institute released the report, Land Tenure and Conservation in Agriculture: Creating Incentives for Landowners. This report explores the network of stakeholders, policies, and institutions through which soil health can be linked to the value of the land and serve as an incentive to change management of that land. Although soil health and management practices are not currently explicitly integrated into the land valuation system, we identify opportunities where such linkages can be created and utilized to rebuild soil health. 

Project Materials and Resources

The additional resources below also contain helpful information about the project and the tools that have been developed by the project team.

Soil Health Testing

Using tools that test soil health and applying what we learn presents an opportunity to restore soil health and improve land management. The resources in this section help to plan and implement soil health testing practices.

Quick Guide: Soil Health Testing | Click to Expand

An action-oriented overview of the soil health testing process; click and scroll to explore.Quick Guide: Soil Health Testing

Soil Health Testing Guide | Click to Expand

A complete guide to conducting soil health testing on farmland and evaluating the results

Conservation Leasing

As a binding contract, the lease agreement is the key instrument that land managers and owners can use to ensure that their land is managed in a certain way. The resources in this section provide key information to make decisions about lease agreements.

Leasing Framework | Click to Expand

A framework to develop a farm lease agreement that encourages conservation through various types of provisions

Leasing Template | Click to Expand

Conservation farm lease provision templates for use in a lease agreement

Tracking Progress

Data collection and analysis is an integral part of managing a farmland leasing program. It is helpful to define specific management categories that are important to the organization and identify measurable or verifiable metrics that will evaluate the management category in question. The resource below provides guidance to aid this effort.

Data Tracking Model | Click to Expand

A system that helps track management data and assess progress toward conservation goals on farmland

If you have any questions about the project or the content on this page, contact Olga Lyandres, Ph.D., at

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