Reducing nitrogen export from the corn belt to the Gulf of Mexico: agricultural strategies for remediating hypoxia

Journal of the American Water Resources Association
By: , and 

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Abstract

SPAtially Referenced Regression on Watershed models developed for the Upper Midwest were used to help evaluate the nitrogen-load reductions likely to be achieved by a variety of agricultural conservation practices in the Upper Mississippi-Ohio River Basin (UMORB) and to compare these reductions to the 45% nitrogen-load reduction proposed to remediate hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico (GoM). Our results indicate that nitrogen-management practices (improved fertilizer management and cover crops) fall short of achieving this goal, even if adopted on all cropland in the region. The goal of a 45% decrease in loads to the GoM can only be achieved through the coupling of nitrogen-management practices with innovative nitrogen-removal practices such as tile-drainage treatment wetlands, drainage–ditch enhancements, stream-channel restoration, and floodplain reconnection. Combining nitrogen-management practices with nitrogen-removal practices can dramatically reduce nutrient export from agricultural landscapes while minimizing impacts to agricultural production. With this approach, it may be possible to meet the 45% nutrient reduction goal while converting less than 1% of cropland in the UMORB to nitrogen-removal practices. Conservationists, policy makers, and agricultural producers seeking a workable strategy to reduce nitrogen export from the Corn Belt will need to consider a combination of nitrogen-management practices at the field scale and diverse nitrogen-removal practices at the landscape scale.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Reducing nitrogen export from the corn belt to the Gulf of Mexico: agricultural strategies for remediating hypoxia
Series title Journal of the American Water Resources Association
DOI 10.1111/jawr.12246
Volume 51
Issue 1
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Wisconsin Water Science Center
Description 27 p.
First page 263
Last page 289
Country United States
Other Geospatial Ohio River Basin, Upper Mississippi River Basin
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N