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Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture is seeing more clearly the need for and value of sustainable crop production.
Farmers can create their own farm Fieldprint with the Field to Market online calculator tool, allowing them to enhance on-farm sustainability by looking at a range of factors.
Gary Edwards, a corn and soybean grower near Anamosa, Iowa, has been involved in the Field to Market program for about six years. He has served as the National Corn Growers Association representative to Field to Market. Having used the Fieldprint Calculator for a few years now, he says he has a better understanding of the effect of tillage on soil erosion, carbon sequestration and greenhouse gases. He has switched from conventional tillage to no-till.
Edwards also has feeder cattle and has used Fieldprint analyses to apply manure where it gives the most fertilizer value.
“The first time you enter information in the calculator, it takes a bit of work. But after the first time, it’s not that difficult,” Edwards says, explaining that he put in two or three years’ worth of data at the outset. This included information such as soil-test data, amounts of crop inputs applied, type of application equipment used, number of trips across the field and yield data.
The Iowa grower believes that in the future, farmers will be asked how sustainable their production practices are. “If I’m asked that question, I’ll have an answer,” Edwards says.
Sustainability will become an increasingly important issue as more retailers establish sustainable sourcing models and require suppliers along the food supply chain to follow suit. In fact, Walmart and McDonald’s Corp. are members of Field to Market.
U.S. growers already have a good sustainability story to tell, says the alliance’s Luckey, pointing to the Field to Market 2012 Environmental and Socioeconomic Indicators Report (fieldtomarket.org/report), which analyzed crop production trends between 1980 and 2011. This study shows that growers of corn, cotton, potatoes, rice, soybeans and wheat have improved resource use/impact per unit of production for all of the environmental indicators.
But farmers will be facing population growth, climate change and natural resource challenges. Field to Market partners and growers understand this. And through the magnifying glass of Fieldprint projects, they have a clear vision of sustainable agriculture for making improvements moving forward.