Agri-environmental assessment tools enable the agriculture and agri-food sector to assess, monitor, and reduce the environmental impact of the sector. From a producer’s perspective, tools must accomplish these objectives in a cost-effective manner. While tools have historically focused on agri-environmental assessment, they are now moving towards decision-support outputs to assist producers to move beyond initial assessment and identification of problem areas.
To date, these tools have not been compiled, compared or assessed for Ontario conditions or users. Thus, there is a need to better understand what agri-environmental assessment tools exist and what the sector sees as essential components. Ultimately, this will reduce duplication of efforts with respect to the development of tools and ensure that tools available to farmers will truly enhance adoption of effective best management practices.
The scan identifies 103 agri-environmental assessment tools. Tools identified were primarily developed and/or used in Ontario. Tools were most commonly developed for the purposes of nutrient management, pest management, disease management, weather forecasting, and soil health. Tools are primarily available on mobile apps or online. Regional tools are generally targeted for watershed management. An overwhelming number of tools were associated with on-farm decision making. Agri-environmental assessment tools largely target producers and are predominantly intended for grain and oilseed production.
To better understand the tools being used, alongside strengths and challenges, key stakeholders from a number of agricultural sector organizations were engaged. Stakeholders indicated a number of agri-environmental initiatives their members are prioritizing, such as 4R nutrient stewardship, precision agriculture, soil health, nutrient management, and greenhouse gas reduction among others.
A number of characteristics are considered beneficial in agri-environmental assessment tools.
Stakeholders emphasized the importance of:
- engaging producers;
- ensuring ease of access and use;
- developing tools as mobile apps;
- improved benchmarking, baseline, and site-specific data;
- improving decision-support outputs and incorporating financial aspects of decision making and;
- developing tools under a whole-farm approach while incorporating commodity specific initiatives.
Key recommendations in order to improve integration of agri-environmental assessment tools, improve tool accessibility, and reduce duplication of efforts have been highlighted as a result of this project.
Click here to access the database of tools (please note the attached database is not a comprehensive list).
This report outlines the methodology used to identify and search for the agri-environmental assessment tools available, provides a summary of key findings from both the scan and interviews with key influencers, and presents next steps for moving forward.
*This project was funded by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs
*Consulting services offered by Wilton Consulting Group