A new, free online tool to help farmers make better-informed operational decisions has been developed by software experts at Iowa State University.

I-FARM software, found at www.i-farmtools.org, helps you assess farm practices' impact on profits and other outcomes.

Using Google Earth data and information collected from various state, regional and national sources, I-FARM allows farmers to input various aspects of their operation along with the location of their farm. The computer software then predicts and compares farming results.

The farmer then inputs the crops intended, the rotation cycle, types and amounts of fertilizer, farm equipment used, tillage, typical yield and many other factors.

The program tells the farmer his costs, labor and fuel required, how much soil erosion and emissions to expect and the income and subsidy payments to expect from the latest farm bill.

For instance, a farmer might discover his virtual plan will result in greater soil erosion or lower profits, and change practices or inputs accordingly.