Calculator uses tool to track farmers’ water quality improvement

decrease font size  Resize text   increase font size       Printer-friendly version of this article Printer-friendly version of this article

A nonprofit for sustainable agriculture recently launched a new metric in its calculator that relies on a popular tool from USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Field to Market, the Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, recently updated its Fieldprint Calculator that measures outcomes in the field to include a metric to measure water quality.

This metric relies on NRCS' Water Quality Index for Agricultural Runoff, or WQIag, which enables farmers to input variables about their field, such as slope, soil characteristics, nutrient and pest management, tillage practices and conservation practices to calculate impact on water quality.

"The WQIag takes the complex scientific information of these variables and synthesizes them into a single number," said Shaun McKinney, team leader for NRCS' National Water Quality and Quantity.

"Water quality is complex," McKinney said. "Experts have usually focused on one aspect of water quality - such as temperature, nutrients or pesticide content - instead of thinking about a more complete picture."

On the WQIag website, producers input information about their land, and the tool outputs a single rating on a 10-point scale with zero being very poor and 10 being excellent. Water quality measurements help farmers keep soil and nutrients on their field and out of the water supply.

"Agriculture is increasingly turning its attention to how to improve impacts on water quality," said Rod Snyder, president of Farm to Market. "The calculator provides the most convenient and all-inclusive way to look at overall sustainability on the farm, and the addition of the WQIag expands the tool's capability to water quality and helps farmers explore opportunities for continuous improvement."

The Field to Market Fieldprint Calculator enables farmers to assess corn, cotton, wheat, soybean, rice and potato operations in terms of land use, soil conservation, soil carbon, water use, energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, and now, water quality.

The metric's inclusion in the tool will help farmers track continuous water quality improvement on their farms. When experts do talk about the complete picture, their common vocabulary is math and science.

It's not always easy to get producers on board with improving water quality, in part because conversations on this topic often quickly become highly technical, leaving most non-scientists behind.

WQIag addresses this problem with two features that set it apart from previous measures of water quality: simplicity and accessibility. First, the WQIag simplifies the result into a 10-point rating everyone can understand; second, it's available to anyone with an internet connection.

Before the WQIag, there was no simple way to rate water quality. Experts installed monitoring stations that tested water as it flowed off fields. These stations provide actual measurements, but they're expensive and interpreting the measurements requires a scientific background.

"Our solution was inspired by the Dow Jones Index," said NRCS environmental engineer Harbans Lal, referring to the well-known system that tracks investments like mutual funds and stocks. "We wanted to represent something very complex with a single, easy-to-understand number."

The calculator is a continuous project with additions of crop data and indicators. Current projects in process include a biodiversity metric and inclusion of alfalfa.

The addition of WQIag builds upon the innovative private-public relationship between Field to Market and NRCS, which also partnered, along with technology consultant ZedX, Inc., to build soil erosion tools into the calculator.

Buyers Guide

Doyle Equipment Manufacturing Co.
Doyle Equipment Manufacturing prides themselves as being “The King of the Rotary’s” with their Direct Drive Rotary Blend Systems. With numerous setup possibilities and sizes, ranging from a  more...
A.J. Sackett Sons & Company
Sackett Blend Towers feature the H.I.M, High Intensity Mixer, the next generation of blending and coating technology which supports Precision Fertilizer Blending®. Its unique design allows  more...
R&R Manufacturing Inc.
The R&R Minuteman Blend System is the original proven performer. Fast, precise blending with a compact foot print. Significantly lower horsepower requirement. Low inload height with large  more...
Junge Control Inc.
Junge Control Inc. creates state-of-the-art product blending and measuring solutions that allow you to totally maximize operating efficiency with amazing accuracy and repeatability, superior  more...
Yargus Manufacturing
The flagship blending system for the Layco product line is the fully automated Layco DW System™. The advanced technology of the Layco DW (Declining Weight) system results in a blending  more...
Yargus Manufacturing
The LAYCOTE™ Automated Coating System provides a new level of coating accuracy for a stand-alone coating system or for coating (impregnating) in an automated blending system. The unique  more...
John Deere
The DN345 Drawn Dry Spreader can carry more than 12 tons of fertilizer and 17.5 tons of lime. Designed to operate at field speeds up to 20 MPH with full loads and the G4 spreader uniformly  more...
Force Unlimited
The Pro-Force is a multi-purpose spreader with a wider apron and steeper sides. Our Pro-Force has the most aggressive 30” spinner on the market, and is capable of spreading higher rates of  more...
BBI Spreaders
MagnaSpread 2 & MagnaSpread 3 — With BBI’s patented multi-bin technology, these spreaders operate multiple hoppers guided by independent, variable-rate technology. These models are built on  more...

Comments (0) Leave a comment 

e-Mail (required)


characters left

Blend and Bulk Tower Systems

Waconia Towers provide speed, efficiency and reliability that only gravity-fed systems can offer. Towers are available with up to 300 ... Read More

View all Products in this segment

View All Buyers Guides

Feedback Form
Feedback Form