A new project funded by the United Soybean Board (USB) will aid Illinois and Indiana farmers’ efforts to improve their sustainable soybean production practices with the help of Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture’s Fieldprint Calculator, a software tool that will help guide operational changes and lead to improved sustainability and more efficient production. The funding will be focused on farms in the Indian Creek watershed of central Illinois and 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 grant 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.
This project will take place over the next 12 months with plans to extend the project and eventually include more producers.
Partners working alongside CTIC and USB on the Fieldprint Project include Livingston County Soil and Water Conservation District in Illinois, Benton County Soil and Water Conservation District in Indiana, the Indian Creek and Big Pine Creek watershed steering committees, Illinois Soybean Association, Indiana Soybean Alliance and Indiana Corn Marketing Council as well as Agrium, The Fertilizer Institute, International Plant Nutrition Institute, Ag Solver, Indiana Farm Bureau, Indiana Pork and the Indiana State Department of Agriculture.
“As one of more than thirty Fieldprint Projects across the country, CTIC and USB, together with their partners, will help deliver more sustainable outcomes for agriculture by partnering with growers on a journey of continuous improvement,” said Rod Snyder, president of Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture.