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Influence of Management Strategies on Sustainability of Row Crop Production using the Field to Market Fieldprint Calculator

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan www.asabe.org

Citation:  Paper number  131594057,  2013 Kansas City, Missouri, July 21 - July 24, 2013. (doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.13031/aim.20131594057) @2013
Authors:   Lori A Gibson, Michael J Buschermohle
Keywords:   sustainability row crops nutrient stewardship variable rate application precision agriculture energy usage greenhouse gas emissions Field to Market Fieldprint calculator spidergram.

Abstract. Increasing agricultural sustainability will enable the world to meet present needs while continuously improving future generation’s ability to meet their own needs. This can be done not only by lessening our environmental impacts, improving human health, and improving the well-being of agricultural communities, but also by increasing productivity to meet current as well as future food, fuel, and clothing demands. In a proactive effort to measure and promote sustainable agriculture, an initiative entitled Field to Market, The Keystone Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture has been formed. This initiative joins various food companies, agribusinesses, producers, commodity groups, and conservation programs to provide leadership, scientific information, and collaboration on improvements that can be made in crop productivity, environmental quality, and human and community well-being. As a result of this initiative, the Field to Market Fieldprint Calculator has been developed to give producers the ability to see how their crop production management strategies impact the sustainability of their farming operation. This educational tool provides producers with general information on what management strategies are most likely to improve or lessen their impacts, or ‘Fieldprint’, on energy use, climate impact, soil loss and water use. Data from several Tennessee producers have been analyzed using the Fieldprint Calculator. Certain factors were found to influence sustainability, through the quantification of energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions. Because the calculator quantifies its sustainability indices on a per pound of crop produced basis, maintaining yield is an important factor. For example, irrigating in a severe drought year proved to be more sustainable than dryland systems because yields were maintained. Using variable rate application (VRA) of fertilizers has the potential to reduce the amount of energy used and greenhouse gases emitted because less fertilizer, on average, will be applied. In turn, this reduces the amount of nutrients that could ultimately pollute surrounding waterbodies. Using the Fieldprint calculator in such a way demonstrates that being sustainable and reducing ‘Fieldprints’ can not only increase producers’ profitability, but also reduce the impacts from agriculture on the environment. 

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