Dr. Tara Wade is an assistant professor of food and resource economics at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Southwest Florida Research and Education Center.
As a natural resource economist for the UF/IFAS, a big part of my job is to help growers reach their economic and conservation goals in efficient ways.
Agriculture plays an important role in sustaining and improving natural resources. We can increase this role by measuring the economic value of the ecological services that growers provide and by using that information to help implement policies that reward agricultural stewardship.
Farm economic sustainability is closely tied to environmental sustainability. Practices and technologies that reduce chemical inputs help to reduce costs and the amount of chemicals lost to the environment. Practices and technologies that help improve soil health -- which may reduce chemical leaching or soil erosion -- may also improve crop yields.
My team and I identify and examine the factors affecting the use of these conservation practices. We hope to help the farm economy by increasing the use of production practices that have positive ecological outcomes. I work closely with growers to understand their production systems, the environments they work in, their challenges and how they make decisions. NIFA funded projects where I use econometrics techniques to provide economic insights that policymakers and growers can use to help make decisions relate to conservation tillage cost and adoption on corn and soybeans fields, pest management in pepper production, and the use of automated systems to deliver therapeutics in citrus trees. Other projects I work on relate to cover crops adoption and the use of multiple BMPs in specialty crop production.
The lessons learned from these studies can be transferred to many other studies that want to increase the use of conservation practices on agricultural land.
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