Property owners can leverage online databases to map land uses and production practices
By Kate Ayers
Producers can use OMAFRA’s AgMaps web application to create custom maps of their farms to manage operations and track production data.
AgMaps is an interactive mapping website that enables “producers to locate and zoom to their property, look at high-resolution imagery (air photos), review agricultural data and use tools such as ‘measure area’ and ‘markup’ to create maps,” Jennifer Birchmore, OMAFRA’s senior geographic information specialist, said to Farms.com.
This site is free to use and only requires an Internet connection, she added. Users do not need to create a username or password.
AgMaps includes various templates that producers can use to identify mapping requirements for ministry programs or initiatives.
For example, producers can use the “Farmstead Sketch” function to create nutrient management plans for their farms, Birchmore said.
“All the information that is needed for a farm sketch is outlined in the template and the location data is autopopulated,” she said.
Site users can find a wealth of data including Ontario soil survey data, ownership parcel data, land use data, topographic maps and watershed boundaries on AgMaps, Birchmore said.
“We also collect and share agricultural tile drainage and constructed drain data. And there is information from other provincial ministries, such as source water data, crown land information and permits to take water,” she added.
Farmers can use AgMaps to improve soil sampling practices, assess stewardship and drainage, and direct custom operators.
Producers can use overhead field imagery to “evaluate erosion issues and soil texture differences that relate to topography. Then, soil sampling protocols and best management practices can be applied to help farmers move towards improved soil management and fertility decisions,” Birchmore said.
In addition, by “using municipal drain and tile drainage records and imagery, farmers can see where opportunities exist for improved nutrient management across the farm,” Birchmore said. With the tool, producers can “ensure the right field is sprayed at the right time. They can use the system to identify fields and create maps with road names and locations to provide their custom applicators.”
Producers can also add their own data to AgMaps to create more detailed documents.
“Using the ‘upload data’ tool, a producer can choose a file from his or her computer that includes spatial information (i.e., latitude and longitude) and overlay it onto the AgMaps data,” Birchmore said.
“This function could be useful for an apiarist who wants to map where his or her hives are, or if a farmer wants to map a proposed trail through a woodlot. GPS coordinates could be gathered from a mobile phone, transferred to a spreadsheet and added to AgMaps.”
By updating and saving information on field operations, farmers can improve their record keeping. They’ll have records of what products they applied and when. Farm managers can also use the online tool to reduce mistakes, such as sending operators to the wrong fields, she said.
Farmers can be rest assured that the information they upload “will not come back to the government. The data remains on producers’ computers and will be removed from AgMaps when the browser is closed,” Birchmore said.