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Mint Growers Excel in FieldRise Final Report

Mint Growers Excel in FieldRise Final Report

The final report from FieldRise, a national program that measures farm stewardship across commodities, finds mint growers at the forefront of farming responsibly. Add to that the fact that mint growers are community leaders, are early adopters of production practices that improve environmental sustainability and are active partners in research to develop novel farming technologies and you have a snapshot of an industry that appears to shine in the area of farm stewardship.

The final report, released in late 2016, contained several highlights, including:

  • Fertilizer is applied in a responsible, science-based manner. Nutrient management is customized. Growers utilize the best information available, have an overall management plant in place and modify their fertility programs annually based on need.
  • The latest technology is used to conserve water on the farm, as mint growers utilize the latest moisture-monitoring technologies and maintain water-flow infrastructure on the farm.
  • Integrated pest management has been a grower priority in the mint industry for many years.
  • Mint growers are stewards of the land, actively conserving native wildlife and supporting biodiversity.
  • Mint growers stay up-to-date on improved production practices and ways to protect their nearby environment.
  • And mint growers are community leaders, with 75 percent involved in a local service organization.

Jed Colquhoun, co-director of FieldRise, said he found several areas where mint growers excelled. In a conclusion distributed as part of the final report, FieldRise noted: “This study shows mint growers already have been focused on sustainability, and measuring BMP (best management practices) adoption indicates they remain committed to continued success.”

In the report, FieldRise assessed the mint industry in seven areas, or “holistic priorities,” including:

  • Nutrient, Water and Energy Management
  • Pest Management
  • Land Stewardship
  • Continuous Education and Community Involvement
  • Business Operations
  • Worker Safety and Environmental Protection
  • Carbon and Water Measurement

Growers from across North American mint production regions participated in the study, which was commissioned by the Mint Industry Research Council, and innovative data analytics was used to ensure objectivity in differentiating grower responses.

A closer look at the final report reveals several interesting findings, including: 

  • 71 percent of mint growers surveyed apply amendments according to soil-test results; 45 percent have written nutrient-management plans; and only 13 percent apply the same amount of fertilizer every year.
  • 71 percent of growers have a soil and water conservation plan; 64 percent maintain water records for at least one year; 51 percent test and maintain proper pressure for all irrigation risers, or heads, and irrigation lines; and 45 percent use an irrigation-scheduling program.
  • 49 percent of mint growers surveyed hire an independent crop consultant; 87 percent scout their own mint; 51 percent rely on a farm-input dealer.
  • 82 percent use scouting to determine when pests have exceeded treatment thresholds; 71 percent are able to reduce pesticide use because of scouting; 64 percent use scouting to track the effectiveness of their IPM program. 
  • 80 percent rotate herbicide classes specifically to avoid resistance buildup; 76 percent spot spray; 80 percent employ hand-weeding or mechanical control; just under 50 percent rotate insecticide classes to reduce the risk of pest resistance.
  • 84 percent of growers scout for insect pests at critical times of a growing season; 64 percent manage irrigation to minimize conditions favorable for diseases; 82 percent scout for disease symptoms and are able to identify different disease types; 80 percent manage fertility for healthy plants as a means to resist diseases.
  • 71 percent of growers surveyed apply insecticides when pollinators are not in field, for example in late evening; 65 percent focus on limiting insecticide drift into pollinator feeding, nesting and off-site areas; 58 percent specifically choose pest-management materials that are pollinator safe.
  • 51 percent of mint growers surveyed monitor for invasive plants and animals, and consult proper authorities for identification and corrective action, as warranted.
  • 91 percent of owners or farm managers have attended educational meetings in the past year; 56 percent have conducted on-farm research in collaboration with university, Extension or other agricultural professionals in the past five years; 75 percent maintain records of farm practices for five or more years to track efficiency and improve production.
  • 91 percent of mint growers monitor wind speed during pesticide application; 75 percent spray only when winds are blowing away from sensitive areas; 76 percent recycle used pesticide containers; 76 percent use drift-reduction nozzle tips; 75 percent calibrate spray application equipment two or more times per year.
  • Finally, 75 percent of mint growers are involved in a local service organization, such as a church or a civic group; 89 percent are members of an agricultural trade organization; 47 percent have donated farm products to a food pantry or food bank in the past five years; 51 percent are local community leaders, serving on local school committees, city government organizations, conservation commissions or other municipal or county boards.

Taken together the data shows an industry that cares about its community, the environment and excels at farm practices, said Colquhoun. “The mint industry really is a leader in the agricultural community,” he said.

He added, however, that, as in all agricultural industries, there are areas where mint growers could improve and, through FieldRise, those areas can be identified.

For a summary of the final report, go to