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I am driven to create smarter tools for farming

Rob Proulx is using detailed data analysis to find smarter ways to evaluate land and its potential for producing crops, for either food or fuel.

As we continue to try to maximize our finite crop space, he's studying land "at the margins" to help farmers determine the best economic and ecological uses for that land—while helping to minimize the environmental impacts of agriculture.

Data that benefits farmers

1:06
Rob Proulx
“We’re trying to replicate… what might be the decision-making process for an individual landowner between do I grow corn or wheat or switchgrass? And what would the yields be on this specific parcel, and what would be the soil erosion or nitrogen runoff via the specific parcel?” Rob Proulx, Lecturer

Finding the sweet spot for various crops

Rob Proulx produces data that estimates, by type of crop, a parcel of land’s likelihood for yield, soil erosion, and nitrate runoff—three critical variables for the region’s economic and ecological health. He hopes to have the data sets be part of an interactive system in which farmers can find out how adjusting their inputs will change the outcomes.

Yield

Images show the projected amount of crop biomass in tons per acre that could be sustainably harvested for corn, spring wheat, and switchgrass in Proulx’s study area. Scale ranges from zero (dark red) to maximum (dark green) yield.

  • Corn
  • Wheat
  • Switchgrass
map of yield by county

Soil Erosion

These images show the estimated amount of soil erosion in tons per acre for corn, spring wheat, and switchgrass in Proulx’s study area. Scale ranges from zero (dark green) to maximum (dark red) erosion.

  • Corn
  • Wheat
  • Switchgrass
map of soil erosion by county

Nitrate Runoff

These images show the estimated amount of nitrate runoff in pounds per acre for corn, spring wheat, and switchgrass in Proulx’s study area. Scale ranges from zero (dark green) to maximum (dark red) runoff.

  • Corn
  • Wheat
  • Switchgrass
map of soil nitrates by county

Integrating data from different disciplines

1:05

To put [these different data sets] together in a way that can be used by farmers, by policy-makers, by any interested party … is a big part of what drives me in doing this work.

Rob Proulx, Lecturer