Easy-to-use and informative metrics are essential to allow farmers to measure and optimise the environmental impacts of their farming activity for themselves. The recently launched Agroscope research programme ‘Indicate’ aims to develop these metrics.
The environmental impacts of agricultural production constantly give rise to debate. On the one hand, there are shortfalls in achieving the Agricultural Environmental Targets; on the other, agriculture also provides positive environmental services such as the sequestration of carbon in the soil or the creation of habitats that increase biodiversity.
Digital tools mean low collection effort
In order to improve farm management, farmers must be able to measure the environmental impacts of their activity easily and be aware of the trade-offs of their possible courses of action. The ‘Indicate’ research programme therefore seeks to develop easy-to-use and informative environmental indicators. To keep the effort of collection low, new digital tools are used that will be processed and interconnected with the help of Farm Management Information Systems (FMIS’s).
Supplemented with economic and social metrics
The focus here is on high-priority indicators for environmental impacts, such as the promotion of biodiversity and soil quality, or the reduction of nitrogen emissions. These indicators are developed for mixed arable and livestock farms in the plain region – a very common focus in Switzerland. In addition, the environmental indicators are supplemented with economic and social metrics in order to highlight and prevent trade-offs between these aspects of sustainability.
Practicality thanks to the Swiss Future Farm and commercial farms
The Swiss Future Farm in Tänikon, which evaluates the benefits and potentials of the Smart Farming technologies, serves as a model farm. The environmental indicators are developed on the Swiss Future Farm and then tested for applicability on other commercial farms.
Integration of the Agri-Environmental Monitoring
The Agri-Environmental Monitoring service that Agroscope performs on behalf of the Federal Office for Agriculture is also integrated into the Indicate research programme. This service investigates the suitability of both the data from Farm Management Information Systems and the indicators developed during the Indicate programme for the future design of agri-environmental monitoring. It also clarifies certain aspects of data flow, data quality and data protection.
The ‘Indicate’ research programme encompasses nine projects and runs until the end of 2024. Further information can be found at www.indicate.agroscope.ch .