A new Calculator has been developed that helps farmers and growers in general better understand and communicate how the management choices they undertake influence their overall sustainability performance and efficiency.
This calculator is free and easily accessible for all. It is a great tool as it allows farmers to maximize their efficiency by optimizing the quality of their management decisions.
A question that arises is how does this calculator measure sustainability. After all, sustainability does not refer to a number so this calculator is complex in that it takes into account a variety of indicators. These indicators include:
- Soil carbon
- Usage of energy
- Usage of land
- Usage of irrigation
- Quality of water
- Amount of greenhouse gas emissions
Furthermore, the management information that is entered into the calculator are analyzed and converted into a so-called “Fieldprint.” This represents the information entered by the farmer visually – that is graphically.
This is monumental as it allows the farmer to conceptualize and visualize how the efficiencies and the environmental impacts of the farmer’s methods vary as the farmer’s decisions are changed. Also, this calculator allows the farmer to compare his/her performance in categories such as environmental impact and efficiency against averages of the country, the state, and even the city. These averages are calculated using the publicly available data.
This allows the farmer to see how good of a job he/she is doing in several different categories. The farmer then can alter/change his/her management based on these results.
This is huge progress for sustainable agriculture. It will with no doubt promote sustainable practices among different farmers. The “compare” feature of this calculator is of significant importance as it encourages competition among different farmers and thus ensuring sustainable practices.
PotashCrop in Trinidad and Tobago
Promising outlooks have emerged in Trinidad and Tobago as well-known and large organizations have stepped forward to help teach farmers, extension workers, and even students in the country about updated methods and techniques in agriculture.
PotashCorp is the world’s largest fertilizer company measured by capacity. It produces three primary crop nutrients: nitrogen, phosphate, and potash(an alkaline potassium compound). They are situated almost all over the world, mainly in the United States and Canada, but have investments in numerous potash-related corporations in the Middle East, in Asia, and in South America.
Potash plays a crucial role in aiding the world in growing enough food to feed a rapidly increasing population.
The many products produced by PotashCorp provide many crops with essential nutrients. Furthermore, these products are also utilized to produce industrial goods and even livestock feeds. These products include potash, diammonium phosphate, monoammonium phosphate, phosphoric acid, ammonia, and urea. These products are in turn synthesized to create fertilizer, providing for proper plant nutrition and growth.
Fertilizer is a crucial necessity for the world. As population rises, arable land available per person decreases, and demand for higher quality food increases, the monumental requirement to maximize the sustainability and efficiency of land is at its peak. The need for fertilizers can be portrayed by the fact that when crops are harvested, they take away vital nutrients from the soil. These nutrients in turn must be accounted for and replaced in order to maintain healthy soil and to maximize future crop growth and output. Fertilizers provide food and nutrients for plants and account for nearly fifty percent of the total crop yield in the world.
To learn more about PotashCrop, visit their website at:
PotashCorp has recently announced that it is teaming up with Trinidad and Tobago’s government to construct a model farm and also a research center. Located in Trinidad and Tobago is PotashCorp’s larges ammonia – based fertilizer production facility. The demonstration farm and research center make up a seventy-five acre area and are intended to teach the latest agricultural methods to farmers, students, and extension workers in Trinidad and Tobago.
These facilities are created with funding from PotashCorp and are situated on land that is leased from Trinidad and Tobago’s government.
The farm will be very extensive and is set to include approximately 6 greenhouses set aside for the cultivation of a wide variety of crops, demonstration plots for the purpose of introducing new technological and managerial techniques to various farmers and students, a research center in order to train localized farmers, and lastly, cultivated land with the purpose of producing a wide range of agricultural products.
This farm is very consequential and is a very favorable development. It is allowing Trinidad and Tobago to bridge the gap between how PotashCorp utilizes the nation’s extensive natural resources to produce nitrogen, and how ammonia, the final product, supplies to food security through providing farmers with the necessary and vital nutrients to dramatically augment their yields.
More information to come as we get closer to this major development.
Innovations in Irrigation
In Langmead farms, which is located near the Chichester area, irrigation is a vital part for the farms’ business. The farms themselves among many plants, grow vegetables and salad crops. Innovative irrigation is vital as it is the one way that allows them to meet the very high standards expected nowadays for crop quality and also the timeliness that is required by their many customers. However, water is not a prevalent natural resource in the Chichester area. This brings up a major concern–coping in rainless summers during periods when demand is at its peak. This problem requires innovative and creative solutions.
For some background information, Langmeads uses approximately 1.4 million cubic meters (the equivalent of almost 300 million gallons) every year. This water comes from a variety of sources, including groundwater, rivers, and drainage ditches. During the summer, when rain is not common, Langmeads depends on water storage. Langmeads store nearly 850 thousand cubic meters of water (almost 200 million gallons) which is garnered mostly during the winter. This water is stored in about 15 reservoirs located throughout their farm sites. To make this system of irrigation, an extensive network of pipes link the various farms together to make it possible for water to be moved and transported to different locations throughout the farms.
The above image is a reservoir – allowing for water storage for usage during the summer
and during droughts.
Langmeads serves as a model for many other farms in that they do not like to squander water, a crucial natural resource. In an attempt to use water efficiently, the Langmeads farms store and recycle wash-line water from a affiliate company called Nature’s Way Foods. This is done on one of the numerous Langmeads farms, strategically located distant from the others.The company utilizes mains water and also water harvested from other farm buildings in order to wash their vegetables.
Arguments against the safety of this practice may arise, but the water is treated with UV light, filtered, and aerated in order to reduce the Biological/Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD). BOD is defined as the amount of dissolved oxygen required by aerobic organisms in a particular body of water in order to break down organic material for necessary energy.
The above-mentioned reservoir provides buffer storage with hopes that the irrigation demand wil be balanced with sewage discharges from the factory.
The following information is courtesy of farmingfutures.org, situated in the United Kingdom. We maintain that this information has not been provided by Ethical GMO.
Boom irrigation machines
The constraints on water availability together with the high costs of pumping and storing water mean that it can cost as much as £0.80 per cubic metre. So Langmeads take every opportunity to make sure that each drop counts. Traditional raingun irrigation machines cannot meet the tight irrigation specification for crop quality and so they rely on 55 computer controlled boom irrigation machines to achieve the required high levels of application uniformity. Each machine is capable of applying 25mm of water to a strip of land 450m long and 54m wide over a period of 14 hours – similar in capacity to a traditional raingun. Low pressure (3 bar) sprinklers, located along the boom, reduce wind drift and reduce energy consumption. The typical costs for a hose reel fitted with a boom are about £28,500.
Langmeads Chichester Farm Manager, Alex Duncan, plants 60 ha of celery with disposable trickle tape. He believes that trickle irrigation will play an increasing role for vegetable production in the future. When properly managed the system offers potential for reducing water wastage and maximising crop productivity to water – more ‗crop per drop.‘ Trickle irrigation can be automated and is designed to apply water little and often; sometimes on a daily basis. The system operates at low pressure (0.5 bar). It significantly reduces labour input and fertilizer is injected into the irrigation water so that it reaches the plant roots directly. Trickle tape is buried just below the soil surface at the same time as the pre-germinated celery is planted. The crop is grown in beds with one trickle tape watering two rows of celery. At harvest the tape is then taken up and re-cycled. At present an abstraction licence is not needed for trickle irrigation. But this is set to change in the next few years as the Water Act 2003 is implemented. So Alex makes sure the water he abstracts for trickle is fully monitored so that he has evidence on which to base his claim for a licence to continue abstracting in the future.
Making sure the right equipment is used on the farm is one thing. Managing the systems is another – deciding when to irrigate and how much water to apply to each crop. Scheduling irrigation on a day to day basis is a balance between how much water the crops need and the availability of irrigation equipment and pumps to apply it when it is needed. To achieve this balance, Alex, his fellow managers and irrigation contractors walk the crops three times a week in order to plan how the irrigation equipment will be allocated across the various sites. He also relies on weather stations located on each farm to automatically provide data for calculating crop water requirements using a soil -water balance model. This is supported by regular soil moisture measurements using tensiometers and capacitance probes which both inform and confirm the crop water requirement calculations. It is good irrigation practice to use more than one method of scheduling. Walking the crops, gathering meteorological data, and checking soil moisture means that Langmeads can have confidence in their irrigation systems and management practices – a ‗belt and braces approach‘. After all, there is too much at stake to get this wrong!
Disclaimer: The following information is courtesy of farmingfutures.org, situated in the United Kingdom. We maintain that this information has not been provided by Ethical GMO.