Much work has been invested in the development of practices and technologies that reduce nitrate losses from agricultural drainage in the US Midwest. While each individual practice can be valuable, the effectiveness will be site specific and the acceptability of each approach will differ between producers. To enhance decision making in terms of water quality practices, this work created average cost effectiveness parameters for seven nitrate management strategies (controlled drainage, wetlands, denitrification bioreactors, nitrogen management rate and timing, cover crops, and crop rotation). For each practice, available published cost information was used to develop a farm-level financial model that assessed establishment and maintenance costs as well as examined financial effects of potential yield impacts. Then, each practice's cost values were combined with literature review of N reduction (% N load reduction), which allowed comparison of these seven practices in terms of cost effectiveness (dollars per kg N removed). At −$14 and −$1.60 kg N−1 yr−1, springtime nitrogen application and nitrogen application rate reduction were the most cost effective practices. The in-field vegetative practices of cover crop and crop rotation were the least cost effective (means: $55 and $43 kg N−1 yr−1, respectively). With means of less than $3 kg N−1 yr−1, controlled drainage, wetlands, and bioreactors were fairly comparable with each other. While no individual technology or management approach will be capable of addressing drainage water quality concerns in entirety, this analysis provides measures of average cost effectiveness across these seven strategies that allows direct comparison.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/matthew_helmers/106/