U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol Board Member Earns Sustainability Leadership Award
December 7, 2020
Field to Market names Lori Duncan their 2020 Trusted Advisor of the Year
On November 12, Field to Market named Lori Duncan, a row crop sustainability specialist at the University of Tennessee’s Institute of Agriculture and board member of the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol, their 2020 Trusted Advisor of the Year. From among their 150 members, employing more than 5 million people across the U.S. agriculture sector, Field to Market chose Duncan’s work as the most impactful to agriculture and the environment.
Duncan Engages Producers in Sustainable Agriculture
Duncan not only researches sustainable agricultural practices, but also works directly with farmers and leverages both facets of her job to advise stakeholders on scalable sustainable practices throughout the cotton industry.
“Tennessee is unique in that I have one of the only positions focused primarily on sustainability, maybe in the country,” Duncan says. “I think it’s important that producers have someone that’s focused on sustainability that can really help them tell their story.”
Duncan has personally assessed nearly 10,000 acres of Tennessee cropland through Field to Market’s Fieldprint® Platform, working directly with farmers to boost both profitability and sustainability.
“She was that missing link we needed,” says Bob Walker, a third-generation cotton farmer in Fayette County, Tennessee. “We had the data. We knew where we wanted to go. We just didn’t know exactly how to get there. She helped us to build that road map.”
Using precision agricultural technologies — particularly variable rate application of nutrients — Walker was able to reduce his energy use and GHG emissions by half. The Fieldprint Platform helped him quantify that improvement, as well as see that his sustainability practices reduced his fertilizer bill by about $90 per acre of cotton.
Watch the video below to learn more about Walker and Duncan’s partnership.
Duncan’s Impact on the U.S. Cotton Industry
Working with farmers like Walker informs Duncan’s research and her ability to make a greater impact in the cotton industry. “My position allows me to look at sustainability metrics and how they can be applied, so we can scale conservation,” she says.
Duncan helps put her sustainable agriculture research into action by supporting outreach programs and extension agents in 95 counties across the state of Tennessee. She also helps educate through in-service trainings and small-scale research experiment stations.
“If I need her, she will do her best to come across the state to help me and help the farmers,” says Jeff Via, UT Extension agent based in Fayette County. “She supports everything from irrigation sensor work to fertility management to even drone technologies. She has to be flexible and have a diverse knowledge set in order to implement programs that farmers need in Tennessee.”
Based on Duncan’s work, Tennessee has seen an increase in variable rate fertilizer application technology from 450,000 acres in 2012 to over 700,000 in 2016. Also, more than 743,000 row crop acres in the state are now being soil sampled to UT standards and producers planted pre than 235,000 acres of cover crops to reduce soil and nutrient losses.
Duncan interfaces with multi-stakeholder networks like Field to Market and the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol to scale applied research and deliver impact. Her work has been replicated by researchers at universities across the country, opening opportunities for cotton producers and extension partners to document and demonstrate the impact of their sustainability practices to downstream apparel brands and retailers.
“The U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol really has a bottom-up and top-down approach,” Duncan says. “We want to be able to work with farmers to identify areas for improvement and improve on those, and also build a market demand for sustainably grown U.S. cotton.”
By demonstrating the capabilities of the Fieldprint Platform to producers, Duncan is helping to drive change across the cotton industry.
“Dr. Duncan’s commitment to the cotton industry is illustrated by her stewardship through education, early implementation of the Fieldprint Platform into grower best practices, and leadership developing the sustainability programming for the Beltwide conferences,” says Jesse Daystar, chief sustainability officer of Cotton Incorporated. “Her broad industry perspective and advocacy continues to showcase the value precision ag practices have for reducing environmental impacts benefiting land and growers for years to come.”
The work we do is possible because of collaborations with researchers like these and partnerships with people all throughout the value chain. Ready to commit to sustainably produced cotton? Become a Cotton LEADSSM partner today. Interested in doing even more? Contact us for ideas to get the most out of sustainable cotton and your partnership with Cotton LEADS.
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