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iFARM: Two High-Tech Tools Aid Farm Management
By Laura McGinnis
October 23, 2007
Raising a crop is hard enough without worrying about paperwork. Now, a new record-keeping tool developed by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) allows farmers to quickly enter information about their land, crops and management methods.
The "iFARM Record Keeper" can manipulate farm management information into multiple formats without requiring producers to enter data more than once, leading to improved efficiency, accuracy and organization.
As a farmer enters management information into the Record Keeper, the spreadsheet immediately converts it into a variety of diverse formats, such as those required for the farmer's home state's restricted-use pesticide report and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service's Conservation Plan.
The Record Keeper was developed by ARS scientist Gale Dunn and technician Daniel B. Palic in collaboration with the Colorado Association of Wheat Growers, whose members wanted a simple, user-friendly record-keeping system. It is one of a suite of decision support tools being developed by scientists in the ARS Agricultural Systems Research Unit at Fort Collins, Col.
Palic and Dunn also collaborated with ARS research leader Merle Vigil and University of Nebraska economist Paul Burgener to enhance a spreadsheet program originally developed by Vigil for evaluating simple farm economics. The expanded program, called iFEAT (iFARM Economic Analysis Tool), can help landlords and tenants assess, among other things, the economic outcomes of different farm leasing arrangements and management decisions.
For example, a farmer might be trying to decide which lease arrangement would be more beneficial to him: a cash lease, in which the tenant pays the landlord a set amount and assumes all the risks but keeps all the crop revenue, or a crop-share lease. In the Great Plains and other areas of the United States where leasing is common, choosing an appropriate leasing arrangement is key to economic success.
iFEAT is a user-friendly spreadsheet tool for helping no-till farmers—who often have higher fertilizer costs—quickly assess the economic benefits of various leasing and management options. The spreadsheet provides information on costs and net returns for different management alternatives, enabling them to assess the potential economic outcomes of management changes.
Both tools—iFEAT and the Record Keeper—can inform and guide growers' management decisions. They can be accessed here: http://arsagsoftware.ars.usda.gov/agsoftware/
ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.