Submitted to: Agricultural Systems
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/6/1999
Publication Date: N/A
Interpretive Summary: Decision aids can help land managers identify sustainable agricultural practices. Our objective was to develop a decision tool that considers multiple management goals and various interest groups. The decision model simulates poultry litter management alternatives applied to winter squash on the basis of four goals: maintaining environmental quality, enhancing soil quality, maximizing waste recycling, and maximizing net revenues. Because concerned groups have different priorities, sustainable decision-making can be very complex. To address this complexity, the model compares the contrasting priorities of squash growers, poultry producers, and watershed-level decision makers. The four litter management alternatives simulated are: composted or fresh poultry litter applied to meet either crop N needs or crop P needs. Overall, the model favors composted litter applied to meet crop phosphorus needs to best meet the management goals of all three interest groups. However, when we consider only one group's priorities, the model results change, often leaving others' priorities completely ignored. The length of time simulated also affects which alternative is chosen. Longer time horizons tend to favor more environmentally and economically sound options. Decision aids can help interest groups see how their priorities interact as well as demonstrate the importance of long-term and multiple goal analysis for choosing sustainable management practices.
Technical Abstract: Decision aids are needed to identify management strategies for complex agricultural problems concerning numerous stakeholders. Our objective was to develop a bioeconomic decision model examining poultry litter use applied to winter squash, Cucurbita maxima, on the basis of multiple goals: enhancing environmental and soil quality, maximizing waste recycling, and maximizing net revenues. Because farm-level decisions about waste management may conflict with societal goals, the model addresses the preferences of squash growers, poultry producers, and watershed-level decision makers. The simulation compares four litter management alternatives: composted or fresh poultry litter applied to meet crop N needs or crop P needs. The model outcome favors composted litter applied to meet crop phosphorus needs although results vary by stakeholder perspective and temporal length of simulation. Decision aids can help various stakeholder groups see how their priorities interact as well as demonstrate the importance of long-term and large scale analysis to assess management alternatives.