Skip to main content
ARS Home » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #243348


item Delgado, Jorge
item GROSS, C - Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS, USDA)
item LAL, H - Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS, USDA)
item COVER, H - Vistronix, Inc
item GAGLIARDI, P - Colorado State University
item MCKINNEY, S - Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS, USDA)
item HESKETH, E - Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS, USDA)
item SHAFFER, M - Retired ARS Employee

Submitted to: Advances in Agronomy
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/13/2009
Publication Date: 2/3/2010
Citation: Delgado, J.A., Gross, C., Lal, H., Cover, H., Gagliardi, P., Mckinney, S., Hesketh, E., Shaffer, M. 2010. A NEW GIS NITROGEN TRADING TOOL CONCEPT FOR CONSERVATION AND REDUCTION OF REACTIVE NITROGEN LOSSES TO THE ENVIRONMENT. Advances in Agronomy. 105:117-171.

Interpretive Summary: The use of nitrogen (N) inputs in agricultural systems has heavily influenced the sustainability and economical viability of agricultural systems worldwide. These N inputs help maximize yields, which is necessary to supply food to the ever-growing world population. However, when more N than necessary is applied, the excess N applications result in increased N losses to the environment, which impacts air and water quality. Recent developments in air and water trading markets may provide current and future opportunities for trading N savings. The new N trading concept, a stand-alone NTT with GIS capabilities and a new internet prototype of a Nitrogen Trading Tool, were developed by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), in cooperation with the Agriculture Research Service Soil Plant Nutrient Research Unit (ARS-SPNR). Both the web-based and stand-alone prototypes allow users of this new technology to quickly determine how many potential N credits their farming operations can generate. These tools have straightforward, easy-to-use screens and users can conduct quick assessments of management practices. Initial results suggest that these tools were capable of evaluating effects of best management practices and determining potential N savings to trade across a region of south central Colorado, Ohio, and Virginia. The GIS prototype will allow users to conduct quick assessments across a larger region, and to identify areas where losses are higher or where there will be greater potential to trade N savings. The Nitrogen Trading Tool prototype is also capable of assessing the potential to trade in direct carbon sequestration equivalents due to savings from reductions of emissions of N2O, and also indirect carbon sequestration equivalents due to savings in indirect N2O losses. We suggest that such a tool could be used for air quality markets and for direct and indirect carbon sequestration equivalent markets. We propose in this paper that the new NTT-GIS can be used to quickly identify the scenario that shows the greatest potential to maximize field-level savings in reactive N for environmental conservation, and to maximize N credits for potential trade of direct and indirect carbon sequestration equivalents.

Technical Abstract: Nitrogen inputs to agricultural systems are important for their sustainability. However, when N inputs are unnecessarily high, the excess can contribute to greater agricultural N losses that impact air, surface water and groundwater quality. It is paramount to reduce off-site transport of N by using sound management practices. These practices could potentially be integrated with water and air quality markets, and new tools will be necessary to calculate potential nitrogen savings available for trade. The USDA-NRCS and USDA-ARS Soil-Plant-Nutrient Research Unit developed a web-based and stand-alone Nitrogen Trading Tool prototype. These prototypes have an easy-to-use interface where nitrogen management practices are selected for a given state and the NTT calculates the nitrogen trading potential compared to a given baseline. The stand-alone prototype can also be used to calculate potential savings in direct and indirect carbon sequestration equivalents from practices that reduce N losses. These tools are powerful, versatile, and can run with the USA soil databases from NRCS (SSURGO) and NRCS climate databases. The NTT uses the NLEAP model, which is accurate at the field level and has GIS capabilities. Results indicate the NTT was able to evaluate management practices for Ohio, Colorado, and Virginia, and that it could be used to quickly conduct assessments of nitrogen savings that can potentially be traded for direct and indirect carbon sequestration equivalents in national and international water and air quality markets. These prototypes could facilitate determining ideal areas to implement management practices that will mitigate N losses in hot spots and provide benefits in trading.