GUELPH — Taking farmland out of production hardly seems like a recipe for making more money.
But it’s one of the major takeaways from a recent small study out of the University of Guelph.
A survey of data from three farms in Southern Ontario found that, for those farms, as much as 14 per cent of the farmland was operating at a net loss, costing more in inputs than it was yielding in profits.
There’s nothing sacred about that number, cautioned University of Guelph scientist and co-author Clarence Swanton. But it does suggest that the extensive mapping and data analysis associated with precision ag is well worth it.
It’s a compelling argument for precision agriculture, Swanton said. Precision ag, reading your land by satellite readings, has been the next big thing in agriculture for years, with much ado made of its potential but little in the way of hard numbers to show that it’s worth it.
What to do with that leftover land? Some of it could be brought to profitability, but Swanton argued that most of it likely couldn’t be. Swanton has a hunch he’s hoping to confirm with more research: That unproductive land is also the most likely to leak nutrients into the environment. He makes the argument that planting cover crops or simply letting the environment take over that unproductive land makes the most sense, since roots and extra organic matter are key elements of making soil better able to retain nutrients