USB adds tool to assess farm sustainability

By Susanne Retka Schill | October 14, 2009

Posted October 30, 2009

Soybean farmers have a new tool available to evaluate how various practices on their farm might impact the environment, plus the opportunity to help shape future versions of the tool. The United Soybean Board, in cooperation with Field to Market: The Keystone Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture recently launched the Fieldprint Calculator on its Web site at

The Fieldprint Calculator takes information from farmers and evaluates five resource categories: land use, soil loss, irrigation water use, energy use and climate impact. It calculates productivity, efficiency and overall fieldprint and allows comparisons with state or national averages. Mike Thede, a USB director and soy farmer at Palmer, Neb., said he was pleased when he entered his farm data into the calculator. "I was surprised how small our fieldprint was." Farming in a part of Nebraska where corn and soybeans are irrigated, he thought there would be a bigger penalty for irrigation. However, his use of strip tillage practices would improve his fieldprint. He can also see where the calculator could be improved by adding more information about fertilizer practices, and their potential impact on water quality. The trial version is seeking such input from farmers as additional modules are added to the tool to expand its capabilities.

In introducing the new tool, the USB said it believes the U.S. soybean industry possesses many sustainability attributes and created the soybean checkoff's Sustainability Initiative to further improve the industry's overall environmental footprint. The Fieldprint Calculator doesn't intend to provide precise environmental evaluations, but rather serve as an educational resource to get growers thinking about their operations and how their practices relate to natural resource management and sustainability.
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