Washington, DC (April 16, 2014) – Field to Market®, the Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, announced today that the Fieldprint® Calculator now incorporates the Water Quality Index (WQI) offered by U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS). The metric’s inclusion in the tool, which will help farmers track continuous water quality improvement on their farms, is a result of ongoing collaboration between Field to Market and USDA.
The WQI is an existing tool that looks at several factors to determine a score for the quality of water leaving a particular field. Those factors include: field physical sensitivity, nutrient management, tillage management, pest management, irrigation and other conservation practices.
“We are proud that Field to Market is using a tool developed by NRCS scientists for the Fieldprint Calculator,” said Dr. Wayne Honeycutt, NRCS Deputy Chief for Science and Technology. “We believe it’s important to equip farmers and ranchers with information on how conservation practices can benefit natural resources as a way to encourage good stewardship of the land.”
The Calculator, first launched in 2009, is a free, interactive online tool to help growers assess corn, cotton, potato, rice, soybean and wheat operations in terms of land use, soil conservation, soil carbon, irrigated water use, energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, and now, water quality. The tool is accessible at www.fieldtomarket.org.
“Field to Market updated the Calculator to incorporate NRCS’s Water Quality Index (WQI), because it’s a simple, convenient way to express multiple water quality parameters into a single, easy to understand value,” said Rod Snyder, president of Field to Market. “The alliance offers important tools to help farmers explore continuous improvement opportunities and allows the food and agriculture value chain to work together to achieve productivity and natural resource conservation.”
Snyder said the WQI addition builds upon the private-public relationship between Field to Market and NRCS, which also collaborated with technology consultant ZedX, Inc. to build the NRCS RUSLE2 and WEPS models for soil erosion into the Calculator.
Using the Fieldprint Calculator, Field to Market member-organizations and growers have supported a variety of Fieldprint projects totaling approximately 400 growers in eight states, which represents nearly 130,000 acres. Examples of Fieldprint projects using the WQI include:
- A cotton project in Northeastern Louisiana, sponsored by Cotton Inc., is exploring the efficiency and sustainability of field management operations and identifying areas of opportunity for improvement.
- A corn and soybean project in Iowa’s Boone River Watershed, sponsored by Coca Cola, The Nature Conservancy, Cargill, Monsanto and Walmart, is establishing a Nutrient Management Plan which promotes reduction in nitrogen use.
- A wheat project in the Turkey Creek Watershed, sponsored by National Association of Wheat Growers and CHS Inc., is determining the level of efficiency and sustainability in Northwest Oklahoma.
- A cotton project, sponsored by the National Cotton Council, is working with cotton growers to develop economic and environmental performance-based production metrics for grower improvement.
Moving forward, Field to Market will continue expanding the capabilities of the tool, with current testing on a biodiversity metric and the inclusion of alfalfa underway.
Field to Market®, the Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, brings together a diverse group of grower organizations, agribusinesses, food, fiber, restaurant and retail companies, conservation groups, universities and agency partners to focus on promoting, defining and measuring the sustainability of food, fiber and fuel production. For more information, go to www.fieldtomarket.org and follow on Twitter @FieldToMarket.
USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service helps America’s farmers and ranchers conserve the nation’s soil, water, air and other natural resources. All programs are voluntary and offer science-based solutions that benefit both the landowner and the environment.