Our panel focused on Question 4 on mobilizing data for spatial targeting and also spoke to issues of payments for ecosystem services. Much of the discussion was on the limits of mobilizing data and toward the end we were starting to discuss potential solutions.
Uncertainties: We acknowledged that there are already a number of resources for targeting: SWAT, RUSLE, LIDAR etc. Some ecosystem services are easier to measure and model with tools while others are harder. Variables such as type of pollutants, soil types, soil moisture, slopes etc. complicate models. E.g. phosphorous loading presents different data challenges compared to nitrogen. To advance more evidence-based policies, we also discussed the need to make the underlying assumptions of models more explicit. This was particularly in reference to various applications of the SWAT model.
Scale: In discussing the scale of the target, we discussed watershed, farm and field, and intra-field scale. It seems there was more consensus on granular watershed levels datasets but less on field-level. Spot sensing within fields would also involve more extensive data gathering capacity. Also raised a question of the role of farmers in adopting sensor technologies, not only in adopting precision agriculture technologies that lower external inputs, but in supplying information for targeting like installing and maintaining sensors. Education and training could play a role here.
Supporting farm-level adoption: We recognized that adoption of conservation technologies or BMPS will entail costs and risks. What are possible mechanisms for supporting farm adoption of these solutions and could insurance play a role? We discussed farm bill payments, subsidies, and private sector payments. An important area for further analysis may be a possible role for farm insurance companies. This would help buffer potential yield losses from adoption and provide assurances.
What role might farm equipment providers have? We saw opportunity within the existing interactions among farmers and equipment companies. We observed that many equipment providers provide additional but optional data services. These are not their core business but when consolidated, they may provide information for targeting and a channel to reach farmers. In supporting farm-level adoption, are there some ways to tap into the optional services farm equipment companies are already providing to farmers?