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Evaluating Environmental Benefits of Precision Farming

Learn more about tools that help in evaluating the environmental benefits of precision farming.
© EIT Food

As you’ve discovered in the previous two Steps, precision farming has the potential to support a range of environmental benefits, from reducing inputs such as pesticides and fertilisers to enabling monitoring of crops to improve the effectiveness of irrigation.

But how can these changes be evaluated? Here, we’ll look at some of the ways the environmental benefits can be quantified.

Environmental Schemes

A comparison of the costs of inputs and the income from yields is the basis for evaluating land use [1].

Looking at your yield maps, are there areas with low yield or less productive areas where the costs of seeds and fertiliser exceed or equal the value of the yield? Would these areas benefit from changing the crop type [2]? Or could they be put into an environmental scheme [3]?

Inputs

Records of inputs (pesticide, herbicide, fertiliser) can produce an evidence base for reporting on statutory and regulatory requirements and demonstrate reduction in use over time.

If you have adopted technologies such as tractor guidance systems or variable rate applications have you seen any changes in fertiliser or pesticide use? Has there been any reduction in fuel use? Are your yields changing in response to any changes in inputs?

Evaluating year-on-year yield changes is useful here, seeing if these relate to any management changes [4]. Also, inputs of time (person hours) can also be recorded to ensure optimal operating efficiency.

Carbon Footprints

This free carbon calculator is a useful decision making tool that allows you to calculate both carbon emissions and sequestration and see how changes in, for example, inputs or fuel use, will affect the balance.

A similar online tool enables you to measure your farm’s footprint in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, blue and green water usage and biodiversity impacts.

Wildlife and Biodiversity

There are many biodiversity measures, from the number and population sizes of native bird, insect and plant species to the diversity of the soil microbiome. Biodiversity Information Systems for Europe provides a list of key services provided by ecosystems, such as pollination and pest & disease control in crops.

Integrated Farm Management is the combination of modern technology with traditional farming methods to increase productivity while protecting our natural resources. This guide from LEAF explains the concept and outlines what it can do for your business.

Have you seen or noticed any visual changes in the wildlife in and around your farmland?

Have you considered undertaking a sustainable farming review? LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming) offer a practical, easy to use management tool for their members.

© EIT Food
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