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This article in JEQ

    Received: Feb 27, 2014
    Published: July 3, 2014

    * Corresponding author(s): deanna_osmond@ncsu.edu


Farmers’ Use of Nutrient Management: Lessons from Watershed Case Studies

  1. Deanna L. Osmond *a,
  2. Dana L. K. Hoagb,
  3. Al E. Luloffc,
  4. Donald W. Mealsd and
  5. Kathy Nease
  1. a North Carolina State Univ., Dep. of Soil Science, Box 7619, Raleigh, NC 27695
    b Colorado State Univ., Agricultural and Resource Economics, Box 1172, Ft. Collins, CO 80523
    c Pennsylvania State Univ., Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education, 114 Armsby Building, University Park, PA
    d Ice.Nine Environmental Consulting, 84 Caroline St., Burlington, VT 05401
    e USDA–NASS, 2 West Edenton Street, Raleigh, NC 27601. Assigned to Associate Editor Eric Davidson


Nutrient enrichment of water resources has degraded coastal waters throughout the world, including in the United States (e.g., Chesapeake Bay, Gulf of Mexico, and Neuse Estuary). Agricultural nonpoint sources have significant impacts on water resources. As a result, nutrient management planning is the primary tool recommended to reduce nutrient losses from agricultural fields. Its effectiveness requires nutrient management plans be used by farmers. There is little literature describing nutrient management decision-making. Here, two case studies are described that address this gap: (i) a synthesis of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the Conservation Effects Assessment Project, and (ii) field surveys from three nutrient-impaired river basins/watersheds in North Carolina (Neuse, Tar-Pamlico, and Jordan Lake drainage areas). Results indicate farmers generally did not fully apply nutrient management plans or follow basic soil test recommendations even when they had them. Farmers were found to be hesitant to apply N at university-recommended rates because they did not trust the recommendations, viewed abundant N as insurance, or used recommendations made by fertilizer dealers. Exceptions were noted when watershed education, technical support, and funding resources focused on nutrient management that included easing management demands, actively and consistently working directly with a small group of farmers, and providing significant resource allocations to fund agency personnel and cost-share funds to farmers. Without better dialogue with farmers and meaningful investment in strategies that reward farmers for taking what they perceive as risks relative to nutrient reduction, little progress in true adoption of nutrient management will be made.

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Copyright © 2014. Copyright © by the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America, Inc.

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