Buyers both domestic and foreign are now putting pressure on soybean farmers to show that agriculture methods are sustainable. Buyers want data to back up sustainable methods. Precision agriculture equipment will play a big part in creating, managing, and recording data for systems that are sustainable for soy bean farming.
The U.S. System to Ensure Sustainable Soybean Farming
Realizing the importance for such a system, a Sustainability Assurance Protocol was made by the American Soybean Association (ASA) in conjunction with the United Soybean Board and the United Soybean Export Council.
Actually, this protocol shows the consumer that farmers have already been following a high standard of sustainable agriculture for many years. America’s 279,110 soybean farmers use a nationwide sustainability program in accordance with laws and regulations that aid in conservation. These are used in conjunction with good farm management. More than 95% of America’s soybean farmers are involved in conservation programs from the USDA.
Even though the first step is showing the public the good, sustainable farming that is already taking place, this new protocol goes even further to have an aggregate approach that shows how soybean production should be sustainable on a national scale. This system can be calculated and will show results that can be awarded by an international certification.
This U.S. protocol spells out rules, procedures and management systems that make sure that soybean production is sustainable. This is just one part of the U.S. program for soybean production sustainability which also includes a way to measure a producer’s positive impact on the environment.
The protocol’s four points:
- Control and Regulation of High Carbon Stock Production and Biodiversity
- Control and Regulation of Production
- Control and Regulation of Labor Health, Public Health and Welfare
- Control and Regulation of Continuing Betterment of Environmental Protection and Production Practices
How Precision Agriculture Plays a Role
Since precision agriculture has been introduced in soybean production, it has aided in making soybean production more sustainable. Such precision methods help by implementing conservative tillage, rotating crops, and complying with the Plant Protection and Federal Seed Acts.
New technology like precision agriculture have helped farmers be more environmentally friendly. With the aid of GPS, farmers can apply natural resources to their crops with great precision, so as not to waste or over-apply pesticides. Conservative tilling and precision agriculture have helped farmers increase production by 96% while lowering energy use by 8% since 1980.
The ASA and PrecisionAg Institute worked together in 2012 to see how precision agriculture was used by farmers. Their study showed that 70% of farmers, or more, were using some kind of precision farming technology, and most (particularly those with more than 500 acres) were using several pieces of precision equipment. Many use anti-drift nozzles for their sprayers, variable-rate planting to be more accurate, and GPS spray booms. Such technology keep farmers from applying too much product, reduce their upfront costs, keep the environment safe, and show that soybean production can be, and is, sustainable in the U.S.
This survey also revealed the need to make precision technology easier for farmers to use. The agriculturalists who saw the greatest ROI also were the same ones who claimed that the technology was easy.
Precision technology isn’t just good for the environment, it’s also good for the farmer’s pocketbook. Overall, the study showed that farmers saved around 15 percent on inputs like fertilizer, seed and chemicals. That way, the precision hardware and software paid for itself within a year on large farms, and within a few years on smaller farms.
Precision technology makers should continue to improve their equipment for ease and advancement. Farmers expect these products should be just as easy to use as mass-appeal technology like tablets and smartphones. The more farmers find precision technology easy to utilize, the better the environment will be for it and the more sustainable U.S. soy production will be. A higher international demand for U.S. soy should follow.