A Social-Ecological Analysis of Nitrogen in Agricultural Systems of the Upper Midwest

Nitrogen loss from corn farming in the Midwest is a major cause of water pollution and greenhouse gas emission. Focusing on farms in Iowa, Illinois, and Michigan, this project will address important gaps in our current understanding of the links between the decisions of corn farmers and the quality of water and air in the region. Researchers will refine previous work on nitrogen loss to take variability within farm fields into account, identify the factors that influence the decisions of farmers about fertilizer use, and develop an integrated, quantitative model that couples the natural dynamics of nitrogen cycling with the social and economic dynamics of farming. 

Results from this project will help farmers and policy makers evaluate alternative ways to reduce water pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from Midwestern row crops. A Nitrogen Roundtable will bring researchers, managers, and stakeholders together, and the project will engage K-12 educators to disseminate research results to the public. The model to be produced is expected to provide a new decision-support tool for more sustainable agriculture in the U.S.

Lead Investigator: 
Other Investigator(s): 
Iowa, Illinois and Michigan