Historical Assessment of Improvement in Management Practices Associated with Corn Production

University of Minnesota/Dr. David Mulla

Corporate supply chain, commodity production group, government farm and environmental protection agency and societal forces have stimulated the development of a wide range of assessment tools to determine the sustainability of farming practices. These efforts are being led nationally by Field to Market, a consortium of multinational agribusiness, commodity group, academic and non-governmental entities. Field to Market has used a Science Advisory Board to develop FieldPrint Calculator for the assessment of farm sustainability (with a focus on energy use, greenhouse gases, land use, soil conservation, and irrigation use and water quality). In Minnesota, the Department of Agriculture spearheaded an effort to develop an Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP). MAWQCP is based on physical characteristics affecting soil loss, as well as nutrient management, tillage management, pest management, irrigation and drainage management and other conservation management practices. Both the FieldPrint and MAWQCP tools are voluntary, and their use is designed to help producers receive recognition for the beneficial practices they use, to help provide greater access to sustainably sourced markets, to provide protection from regulation, and to provide technical assistance for improving farm management.

There is no established long-term historical assessment of sustainability with any of these new sustainability efforts. A pressing need exists to identify historical trends in management practices in order to identify how much progress has been made to improve the sustainability of farms. The goal of this project proposal is to conduct a historical assessment of changes in management practices used by Minnesota corn producers covering at least the last 25 years at five to ten year intervals. This assessment will be used to identify management practices which have improved, and identify strategies for further improvement. The assessment will also identify which management practices are difficult to track and identify historical trends.