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Growing with Data

Lifelong learners — that is one dependable constant though generations of growers, their ability to adapt and learn through changing conditions. Learning about the land, learning about new techniques, and applying them to grow more sustainably — not only what’s planted in the ground but as a business and as an agriculture community of producers.

Kellon Lee, a fourth-generation farmer, is one example of cotton growers leading the way though learning from data insights. Using the Field to Market’s Fieldprint Platform for the past three growing seasons on his Louisiana farm, he’s able to focus on improving soil health and water use efficiency, helping to increase his on farm profitability and drive the cotton industry to meet the  10-year sustainability goals measured through U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol.

“When completing my first Fieldprint Calculator, the initial challenge that stood out to me as a key performance indicator (KPI) was with soil loss. To address this, I decided to incorporate ‘winter cover crops’ to help retain soil structure and improve soil health.”

Lee started with about 100 acres of cover crops then increased to 250 acres. He could see the difference it was making in the Fieldprint Calculator results and decided to increase the cover crop program to 2500 acres, which is over 50 percent of the farm. The practice is proving to hold soil in place. Also, the process adds key nutrients back to the soil to lower fertilization requirements for upcoming crops.

“By incorporating better cover crop practices, we have also reduced tillage. This has saved me money on fuel and maintenance while also improving soil health and soil water holding capacity,” Lee observes.

Lee began focusing on water use efficiency based on results for the irrigated portions of his operation from the Fieldprint Calculator analysis. Lee reviewed the data for soil moisture and chose to implement soil moisture sensors ensuring water precision or not ‘wasting’ water and energy.

“These actions have really improved my environmental impact and increased my water use efficiency. With the technologies available we can accurately apply the right amount of water for the right amount of time to not over water the crop. Using the Fieldprint Calculator, we can see how these decisions are improving our water use efficiency and helping lower our environmental footprint. “

Lee’s advice to other growers, “In times like this, it has never been more important to be as precise and efficient as possible to keep our operation in business. Using the tools available allows us to be as sustainable as possible which saves us money while still growing quality crops. We all want to make as little of an impact on the environment as possible, however, staying in business is also just as important. By focusing on my sustainability and efficiently using resources, I can ensure our farm makes it to the next generation.”

Kellon Lee is profiled by Field to Market in their 2020 Farmer Spotlight Series for outstanding conservation and stewardship efforts.  He’s part of the National Cotton Council’s Emerging Leaders Program and active U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol Member.

Learn more, join Lee and others on the sustainability journey by enrolling in the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol.