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Results promising from Chesapeake Bay farm sustainability program

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Truterra LLC, Campbell Soup Company, and The Mill have spent recent years working on a sustainability project in the Chesapeake Bay region. Recently, they announced the results from the second year of their related pilot project.

While the adoption of conservation practices needs to be tracked over a longer period of time to assess impact and sustainability, the year-two results suggest important progress. Truterra, which is the ¬†sustainability business at Land O’Lakes Inc., and The Mill, a Land O’Lakes agricultural retailer, will identify opportunities based on these year-over-year insights, and work with farmers to continue to advance their stewardship and profitability in 2020 and beyond.

Using Truterra’s data tool known as Insights Engine, participating farmers and project partners tracked, aggregated and reported environmental and economic outcomes of on-farm stewardship practices across 10,000 acres in the Chesapeake Bay region of Pennsylvania and Maryland. The Environmental Defense Fund was instrumental in building the original pilot structure.

The project focuses on measuring and accelerating stewardship on farms growing wheat in rotation in the supply regions for several Campbell brands such as Pepperidge Farm bakery classics, Pepperidge Farm cookies, Goldfish crackers, and Snyder’s of Hanover pretzels.

Below are illustrative insights from participating project acres.

  • Participating acres were GHG emissions-neutral. Overall, results tracked in the Insights Engine show near-zero net on-farm greenhouse gas emissions across all acres. For some acres, net emissions were negative, primarily driven by adoption of conservation tillage and cover crops. As regenerative agriculture — the potential for farming practices to make a net-positive impact on climate and other natural resources — gains greater adoption, this project provides new data showing the positive impacts of farmer-led and farmer-driven stewardship.
  • Nitrogen Use Efficiency (NUE) improved between 2018 and 2019. In 2019, the average NUE across the wheat acres was 1.14 pounds of nitrogen per bushel. For wheat, a basic NUE score is 2.0 or higher, while an advanced NUE score is closer to 1.0 and indicates that farmers have optimized yield while minimizing environmental risk. Using crop nutrients more efficiently saves farmers money and mitigates the risk of nutrient loss into the environment.
  • Soil erosion declined between 2018 and 2019, a step towards improving soil health. Sheet and rill erosion, which create movement in the topsoil, the most productive asset of farms, declined between 2018 and 2019. Farmers that implement strong practices to boost soil health will see lower erosion. Both diverse crop rotations and an increase to 95 percent of all acres using no-till management are positive drivers of soil health.

“These data help to provide proof of concept for farmer-led, and ag retailer-supported, stewardship efforts,” said Jason Weller, Vice President, Truterra LLC. “While the concept has been popular for some time, insights from this project suggest that smart farm management practices can help to slow and mitigate the results of climate change, while supporting greater resilience to the impacts of a changing climate and farm profitability.

The goal of the Campbell-Truterra project, launched in 2018, is to assess how working through farmers’ most trusted advisor — the agricultural retailer — to deploy precision tools can result in adoption of conservation practices and lead to positive environmental outcomes, including reduced greenhouse gas emissions on farms and improved water quality in the Chesapeake Bay region. Additionally, the tools strengthen farm profitability and the business case for stewardship by modeling the field-by-field return-on-investment of conservation practices, while also equipping growers to benefit from incentives made available through the U.S. Farm Bill and other programs.

There are now more than 70,000 acres in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Ohio enrolled in Truterra Insights Engine.

Any views or opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect those of AGDAILY. Comments on this article reflect the sole opinions of their writers.
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