At present the claims that precision farming will help the environment
are based solely upon the more precise placement of chemicals. First,
precision farming does not necessarily compute to a reduction, it could
mean more, especially on the high quality soils. Second, the exact
placement of the chemical affects not only the productive potential but
the env. degradation. However, no one is developing the information on
this spatial relationship (understandable since it is not connected to
profit of individual farmer the way yield and chemcial cost is). It seems
this is a legitimate arena for public funds like EPA. For instance, there is
a great deal of highly productive soils in floodplains that may respond
to an increase in nutrients. However, those same chemicals are more
likely to get into surface waters. If you take a farm and reduce nutrient
applications on the less productive soils and increase it on the more
productive soils and end up with fewer pounds of nutrients over all,
have we protected the environment? It depends upon where the
nutrients were placed, the topography, the climate and the env.
resources that need protection.
This is an important area and EPA is the logical agency to begin
examination of this.
Stephen B. Lovejoy
Department of Agricultural Economics
1145 Krannert Building
West Lafayette, IN 47907-1145 phone: (317) 494-4244 fax: (317)