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ARS Home » Midwest Area » West Lafayette, Indiana » National Soil Erosion Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #362580

Research Project: Conservation Practice Impacts on Water Quality at Field and Watershed Scales

Location: National Soil Erosion Research

Title: Reducing the impacts of agricultural nutrients on water quality across a changing landscape

item PETERSON, HEIDI - International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI)
item Williams, Mark
item FRANKENBERGER, JANE - Purdue University
item King, Kevin
item MCGRATH, JOSH - University Of Kentucky
item MOODY, LAURA - The Fertilizer Institute
item RIBAUDO, MARK - Retired ARS Employee
item STROCK, JEFF - University Of Minnesota

Submitted to: Council for Agricultural Science and Technology Issue Paper
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/21/2019
Publication Date: 4/15/2019
Citation: Peterson, H., Williams, M.R., Frankenberger, J., King, K.W., McGrath, J., Moody, L., Ribaudo, M., Strock, J. 2019. Reducing the impacts of agricultural nutrients on water quality across a changing landscape. Council for Agricultural Science and Technology Issue Paper. 64:1-60.

Interpretive Summary: Agricultural production has increased across the United States, but water quality remains a concern nationwide. This paper provides a broad overview of processes, practices, and programs that influence the impact of agriculture on surface and groundwater quality, and discusses the challenges to achieving water quality improvement goals. Within this paper there are five main sections: 1) a description of soil nutrient cycles that serve as the foundation to both crop production and environmental loss; 2) factors that control nutrient loss to surface water and groundwater; 3) nutrient management practices and common conservation practices that farmers, land managers, and conservation professionals currently use to decrease agriculture's impact on water quality; 4) environmental policies, incentives, and programs, past and present, related to cropland agriculture and water quality; and 5) challenges and needs for agriculture to move toward improving efficiency, meeting water quality goals, and sustaining crop production levels.

Technical Abstract: Agricultural productivity in the United States has doubled over the last 50 years through agricultural intensification and adoption of new innovative technologies. Although efficiency of our agricultural systems has increased, water quality remains a concern with minimal measured improvements observed nationwide. The purpose of this paper is to provide an overview of the processes, conservation practices, and programs that influence the impact of agriculture on surface and groundwater quality. Complexities and difficulties associated with nutrient cycling and transport processes, management decisions and practice trade-offs, and federal conservation program effectiveness create immense challenges to achieving and measuring water quality improvement goals. Development of more precise nutrient recommendations, advancement of water monitoring methods to better differentiate among potential nutrient sources, design and implementation of novel conservation practices that address dissolved nutrient loss and in-stream nutrient retention, increased knowledge of processes influencing nutrient supply and transport, and increased cost-effectiveness of conservation programs integrating regional and industry-based collaboration are needed to continue to improve water quality in agricultural landscapes.