Go On-Line to Measure Your Farm's Health

New calculator is part of Keystone Alliance effort.

Published on: Feb 27, 2009

Farmers will soon have a new tool to evaluate their use of natural resources, crop production inputs and their farms' sustainability.

The FieldPrint Calculator is a free, on-line tool developed as part of Field to Market, the Keystone Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture. At the Commodity Classic in Grapevine, Texas, alliance leaders explained the calculator, which will be available at www.fieldtomarket.org beginning March 15 for farmer testing and feedback.

Field to Market includes representatives from grower associations, agribusinesses, food companies and conservation organizations. Its first initiative was a report, released in January at the American Farm Bureau Federation convention, that measured productivity and the environmental health of U.S. agriculture. It found that agricultural productivity has become increasingly efficient, relying on fewer inputs to produce more.

The report evaluated nation-scale metrics over the past two decades for land use, water use, energy, soil loss and climate impact on corn, soybeans, cotton and production. Energy use per unit of output is down in corn, soybeans and cotton production by 40% to 60%. Irrigated water use per unit of output has also decreased, 20% to 50%.

Increased productivity is critical as global population climbs to 9 billion by 2050, with the accompanying need for agricultural production to double by then, explained Sarah Stokes Alexander, project coordinator. She said this higher production must be accomplished without negatively affecting the environment and society.

That's where the calculator comes in. Doug Goehring, who raises corn, soybeans and wheat in North Dakota, said the on-line calculator will help producers understand how they're being sustainable on the farm today. They can also gain insight into any future improvements that can benefit the environment and the bottom line, he told the media at the Commodity Classic.

"I like the tool. It reaffirms everything I have seen firsthand on our operation, and it will guide our future decisions on the type of technology and practices that we may want to adopt."

Goehring said that the tool can help farmers benchmark their operation against an industry index.

Field to Market is now soliciting farmer input on the calculator with the goal of having it ready in the next few months.