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Fieldprint Calculator Helps Farmers Protect the Environment

HONOLULU, January 9, 2012 – Seeing truly is believing. Just ask Missouri farmer Brian Marshall.

The DeKalb County corn and soybean farmer keyed crop production input information into a new program called the Fieldprint Calculator, during a demonstration at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 93rd Annual Meeting. The 35-year-old third-generation farmer had made two extra passes on a field spraying herbicide. Marshall wanted to know: Was it worth it? He keyed in all of the costs, and the answer was a resounding “No!”

“It’s visual,” Marshall said about the farm management tool, shaking his head. “It wasn’t worth it for me to make those extra passes. It wasn’t good for the environment because of all of the extra fuel I used and it wasn’t good for my bottom line.”

Marty Matlock, professor of Biological and Agriculture Engineering for the University of Arkansas showcased the Fieldprint Calculator at a seminar. Matlock is also director of the Center for Agriculture and Rural Sustainability at the university. He’s trying to help farmers reduce negative impacts on the environment that have also been costing them money.

The Fieldprint Calculator calculates the ratio of output of a specific crop to the input costs for production. A farmer can then compare what he or she is doing to that of other farmers in their county, state and nationally. It’s an easy-to-use tool designed to help farmers start looking at how their crop production impacts farm sustainability.

The tool measures a broad spectrum of input areas including energy use, soil loss, soil carbon, irrigation water use and greenhouse gas emissions. These are some of the obvious things that farmers have always looked at, and others haven’t paid much attention to before.

“Our approach is to measure the most important things, always looking to improve,” Matlock said. “It has to be relevant and useful to the everyday farmer; those things that are costing them money.”

Matlock said many of the things that cost farmers money also impact the environment – soil loss, energy overuse and water depletion. He said the idea is for a smaller input costs footprint and greater sustainability because fewer resources are needed to get the same or a better end result.

Farmer Brian Marshall agrees. “Sustainability is important,” Marshall said. “We have to be good stewards of the land. This tool allows you to see the economic tie-in to that stewardship.”

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Contacts: Tracy Taylor Grondine
(202) 406-3642
tracyg@fb.org
Mace Thornton
(202) 406-3641
macet@fb.org