Mapping profitability — a better prescription for your bottom line and the environment

Dr. Clarence Swanton, University of Guelph.

Precision agriculture provides clear evidence of the impact of yield variability. But often farmers find themselves mired in a swamp of data as they work to create management zones and prescriptions to maximize yield across a field.

University of Guelph’s Clarence Swanton certainly sees the opportunity for farmers to intensify management and increase yield but he believes farmers may be better served if they focus less on yield mapping and spend more time mapping the profitability of their fields.

Swanton, best known for his ground-breaking research identifying the critical weed control period in and corn and soybeans, and recent work on a plant’s ability to sense weed competition, shared his vision of profitability mapping at the recent Southwest Agricultural Conference in Ridgetown, Ontario.

For Swanton, profitability mapping is what you get when you use precision farming for both profit and enhancing your farm environment. He explains that it allows farmers to identify parts of the field where they make money and areas that provide no return on investment. Farmers can then focus on profitable areas of the field and adopt different management strategies for perennial money-losers.

In this interview, Swanton shares his vision of how farmers can use profitability mapping to better their bottom line while increasing biodiversity and enhancing the ability of poorer areas of the field to handle environmental stress.

Swanton says this holistic approach will increase profits and sustainability. He also feels it will enhance the Canadian brand as global scrutiny of farming and food production practices continues to increase.

Swanton feels some farmers will naturally gravitate to profitability mapping based on their values, while others will require incentive. As the concept gathers steam, he says it could be incentivized by innovative land rental agreements that reward both yield and environmental management.

Crop insurance programs may also be interested in efforts to stabilize yield under stressful conditions. “We’re not there yet, but I think we have to have some discussion around that as we move forward,” adds Swanton.


Bernard Tobin

Bernard Tobin is Real Agriculture's Ontario Field Editor. AgBern was raised on a dairy farm near St. John's, Newfoundland. For the past two decades, he has specialized in agricultural communications. A Ryerson University journalism grad, he kicked off his career with a seven-year stint as Managing Editor and Field Editor for Farm and Country magazine. He has received six Canadian Farm Writers' Federation awards for journalism excellence. He's also worked for two of Canada's leading agricultural communications firms, providing public relations, branding and strategic marketing. Bern also works for Guelph-based Synthesis Agri-Food Network and talks the Real Dirt on Farming.


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