Field to Market, the Keystone Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, has issued a report on efficiency improvements for six major crops in the United States – corn, soybeans, cotton, wheat, rice and potatoes – improvements made in the last three decades.
The report has a lot of encouraging news.
The study that is the basis for the report was conducted by HIS Global Insight . The researchers looked at five environmental indicators – land use, soil erosion, irrigation water applied, energy use, and greenhouse gas emissions. They also looked at a number of socioeconomic indicators, including labor hours, debt to asset ratio, fatalities and non-fatality injuries, returns on variable costs and contribution to national gross domestic product (GDP). The period covered by the study was 1980 to 2011.
Some of the key findings include:
- “Farmers have a good sustainability story to tell, with increases in production accompanied by increasing resource efficiency and improvements on a number of environmental, social, and economic indicators.”
- Corn yield increased 101 percent in total production and 64 percent in bushels per acre over the period studied.
- Total soybean production increased (+96%) and yield (bushels per planted acre) increased (+55%).
- Cotton increased in total production (+55%) and yield (pounds lint per planted acre) (+43%).
- Fatalities, non-fatality injuries, and labor hours all declined.
The report also identifies opportunities for improvement, and improvement in areas covered by the analyses. These include additional crops covered, metrics for water quality and biodiversity, and additional indicators for both environmental and socioeconomic indicators.
The trend is clear: American farmers are becoming more efficient as they continue to produce more food.
Field to Market news release on the report.
The Field to Market report.
National Corn Growers Association’s summary of the report.
Farm Bureau: New Tool to Measure On-Farm Sustainability
All report statistics cited above are from Field to Market (2012). Environmental and Socioeconomic Indicators for Measuring Outcomes of On-Farm Agricultural Production in the United States; Summary Report: Second Report, July 2012. Available at: www.fieldtomarket.org.
Note: Monsanto is a member of the Keystone Alliance and Field to Market.