Beyond the nutrient strategies: Common ground to accelerate agricultural water quality improvement in the upper Midwest

Reid David Christianson, Laura Elizabeth Christianson, Carol Wong, Matthew Helmers, Gregory McIsaac, David Mulla, Moira McDonald

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Nutrients in drainage waters from the Upper Mississippi River Basin states have been a well-documented contributor to the Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone for decades, and in response, twelve states have developed strategies to address this issue, with Iowa, Minnesota, and Illinois performing rigorous science assessments which estimated nitrogen and phosphorus reduction effectiveness for numerous agricultural non-point source conservation practices. The practices identified in these strategies were compared to identify areas of consensus and discord on nutrient load reduction potentials. Additionally, each practice was assessed for (1) the suitability to stack or be layered with other practices (stackability), (2) the ability to track implementation within a state or regionally (trackability), and (3) the level of production system change required to implement the practice. Overall, there was general consensus among the state strategies in the nutrient load reduction effectiveness of most practices with the exception of cover crops (10%–31% nitrogen reduction) and bioreactors (13%–43% nitrogen reduction). The most effective water quality-improvement practices (i.e., land-use change practices) required relatively more production system changes to agronomic management and were the most trackable (scores: 5, 1–5 scale), although they were also less stackable with other practices (scores: 1 to 1.8; 1–5 scale) and were the least cost effective on a unit area basis (generally $15 to $964 per ha). The most cost effective practices tended to be highly stackable (e.g., nitrogen management: (−)$49 per ha and stackability of 4.7), which indicated that stacking a variety of practices may be the most cost effective use of conservation dollars. The practices that were most difficult to track had relatively lower nitrogen loss reduction effectiveness, but these practices were less costly to implement and required relatively less production system change to agronomic management, two factors of importance to many producers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1072-1080
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Volume206
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 15 2018

Fingerprint

Nutrients
Water quality
nutrient
Nitrogen
production system
nitrogen
Conservation
cost
Costs
cover crop
drainage water
Bioreactors
stacking
Land use
Catchments
bioreactor
Drainage
Crops
land use change
Phosphorus

Keywords

  • Conservation
  • Nitrogen
  • Phosphorus
  • Tracking
  • Upper Mississippi River basin
  • Water quality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law

Cite this

Beyond the nutrient strategies : Common ground to accelerate agricultural water quality improvement in the upper Midwest. / Christianson, Reid David; Christianson, Laura Elizabeth; Wong, Carol; Helmers, Matthew; McIsaac, Gregory; Mulla, David; McDonald, Moira.

In: Journal of Environmental Management, Vol. 206, 15.01.2018, p. 1072-1080.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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