The United Soybean Board (USB) and Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) are beginning a new project to help soy growers in Illinois and Indiana improve sustainability. Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture’s Fieldprint® Calculator is a software tool that allows users to see where their operation needs changes and how their farm can improve sustainability and greater efficiency. The funding provided by USB will focus on farms in the Indian Creek watershed of Illinois and the Big Pine watershed of Indiana.
“The Fieldprint Calculator is a great tool that helps farmers assess their current efforts towards being more sustainable, especially as they compare their scores to data from other farms around the country,” said Chad Watts of the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) in West Lafayette, Indiana, which is coordinating the project. “Sometimes, we need to look at our operations from a new and different perspective, and the Fieldprint Calculator will be a vehicle to help us do just that.”
“Through this reimbursement program from the United Soybean Board, 15 farmers from each watershed will engage in a full assessment of their operations through the Fieldprint Calculator,” Watts added. “They will then work with trained advisors to look at all of the information, evaluate the effectiveness of their current practices, explore the impact of changes in their conservation systems, and map out a path to even greater protection of water quality, soil health and profitability.”
Based on detailed data provided by the farmers and advisors, the Fieldprint Calculator estimates the field level performance on participating farms and provides a “fieldprint” analysis that helps farmers visualize the environmental impact and sustainability of their farming practices. The calculator scores farms on sustainability metrics such as land use, soil carbon, water quality, energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.
“Over the past five years, farmers in the Indian Creek watershed of Illinois have adopted conservation systems on more than half of the cropland in the watershed,” notes Watts. “Using the Fieldprint Calculator, some of those farmers and their crop advisors will be able to take conservation in the watershed to the next level, and make informed decisions about the kinds of changes that can be made to improve their farming operations and reduce off-farm impacts.”
“This will also be a big benefit to Big Pine Creek in western Indiana as we work with farmers to assess their overall farm sustainability and help them as they seek to make changes in their operations to improve their efficiency and reduce impact on water quality”, says Watts.
The current project will continue for the next 12 months, at which time hopefully more producers will be included.