The economic and environmental consequences of implementing nitrogen-efficient technologies and management practices in agriculture

Xin Zhang, Denise Leonore Mauzerall, Eric A. Davidson, David R. Kanter, Ruohong Cai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

20 Scopus citations

Abstract

Technologies and management practices (TMPs) that reduce the application of nitrogen (N) fertilizer while maintaining crop yields can improve N use efficiency (NUE) and are important tools for meeting the dual challenges of increasing food production and reducing N pollution. However, because farmers operate to maximize their profits, incentives to implement TMPs are limited, and TMP implementation will not always reduce N pollution. Therefore, we have developed the NUE Economic and Environmental impact analytical framework (NUE3) to examine the economic and environmental consequences of implementing TMPs in agriculture, with a specific focus on farmer profits, N fertilizer consumption, N losses, and cropland demand. Our analytical analyses show that impact of TMPs on farmers' economic decision-making and the environment is affected by how TMPs change the yield ceiling and the N fertilization rate at the ceiling and by how the prices of TMPs, fertilizer, and crops vary. Technologies and management practices that increase the yield ceiling appear to create a greater economic incentive for farmers than TMPs that do not but may result in higher N application rates and excess N losses. Nevertheless, the negative environmental impacts of certain TMPs could be avoided if their price stays within a range determined by TMP yield response, fertilizer price, and crop price. We use a case study on corn production in the midwestern United States to demonstrate how NUE3 can be applied to farmers' economic decision-making and policy analysis. Our NUE3 framework provides an important tool for policymakers to understand how combinations of fertilizer, crop, and TMP prices affect the possibility of achieving win-win outcomes for farmers and the environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)312-324
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Environmental Quality
Volume44
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'The economic and environmental consequences of implementing nitrogen-efficient technologies and management practices in agriculture'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this