Greenhouse gas mitigation benefits and profitability of the GreenSeeker Handheld NDVI sensor: evidence from Mexico
Better targeting of fertilizer application can result in yields that meet or exceed those achieved without improved targeting while reducing total fertilizer use. However, in many growing regions, it may be difficult for farmers to access the necessary data to inform improved fertilizer use. The GreenSeeker Handheld is a low-cost technology that can be used to improve the efficiency of fertilizer applications by providing farmers with recommendations for the amount of nitrogen (N) to apply mid-season to meet the needs of their crops. The technology has been utilized on nearly 2,000 farmer fields representing more than 60,000 hectares in three regions of Mexico. In this study, the net effects of this technology on economic and environmental outcomes for these farmers were assessed. Specifically, farmer field-level data and locally derived greenhouse gas emission factors were analyzed and use of the GreenSeeker Handheld was estimated to have led to a total of $2.6 M USD in additional profits and more than 14,300 tons CO2e of avoided emissions. However, not all farmers utilizing this technology followed the resulting recommendations. Participating farmers that did not follow the recommendations experienced lower profits, indicating that benefits would have been larger had participants applied fertilizer at the levels recommended for their fields. In addition, the total benefits of higher farm profits and reduced emissions could be scaled up significantly if this technology were applied more broadly. However, development and implementation of the technology had been supported by subsidies and further efforts would be needed to make it sustainable.