Even locally-grown and organic produce impact the environment. Researchers at the University of Kentucky are working up a method for measuring those impacts. U-K Sustainable Agriculture Extension Specialist Lee Meyer says they want to fully understand farming’s impact on the quality of air, soil and water quality.
“About 80 percent of our cropland is in these row crops. So, if we want to really improve the environmental dimension of agriculture, we have to go after those crops that use lots of acres,” said Meyer.
Meyer says other states have pilot projects to better measure the environmental impacts within farming. At U-K, he envisions working with plant scientists on better instruments for measuring such damage.
“We want to find out if the measures are accurate and how easy there are and how expensive. We want these things to be as simple for a farmer to use, not burdensome. If a farmer is struggling financially and we ask them to do these things, that’s not fair or good policy.”
Meyer says organic production has a lot of merits, but it also requires a lot of tillage and that can promote soil erosion. In time, he says farmers could use these environmental measurements to assess their performance. He says it could be used to reward farmers who are good stewards of the land.