An agent-based model of farmer decision-making and water quality impacts at the watershed scale under markets for carbon allowances and a second-generation biofuel crop

Tze Ling Ng, J. Wayland Eheart, Ximing Cai, John B. Braden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

An agent-based model of farmers' crop and best management practice (BMP) decisions is developed and linked to a hydrologic-agronomic model of a watershed, to examine farmer behavior, and the attendant effects on stream nitrate load, under the influence of markets for conventional crops, carbon allowances, and a second-generation biofuel crop. The agent-based approach introduces interactions among farmers about new technologies and market opportunities, and includes the updating of forecast expectations and uncertainties using Bayesian inference. The model is applied to a semi-hypothetical example case of farmers in the Salt Creek Watershed in Central Illinois, and a sensitivity analysis is performed to effect a first-order assessment of the plausibility of the results. The results show that the most influential factors affecting farmers' decisions are crop prices, production costs, and yields. The results also show that different farmer behavioral profiles can lead to different predictions of farmer decisions. The farmers who are predicted to be more likely to adopt new practices are those who interact more with other farmers, are less risk averse, quick to adjust their expectations, and slow to reduce their forecast confidence. The decisions of farmers have direct water quality consequences, especially those pertaining to the adoption of the second-generation biofuel crop, which are estimated to lead to reductions in stream nitrate load. The results, though empirically untested, appear plausible and consistent with general farmer behavior. The results demonstrate the usefulness of the coupled agent-based and hydrologic-agronomic models for normative research on watershed management on the water-energy nexus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberW09519
JournalWater Resources Research
Volume47
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology

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