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- Case Studies in the Environment
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- National Science Foundation
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Technical best management practices are the dominant approach promoted to mitigate agriculture’s significant contributions to environmental degradation. Yet very few social science studies have examined how farmers actually use these practices. This study focuses on the outcomes of farmers’ technical best management practice adoption related to synthetic nitrogen fertilizer management in the context of Midwestern corn agriculture in the United States. Moving beyond predicting the adoption of nitrogen best management practices, I use structural equation modeling and data from a sample of over 2500 farmers to analyze how the number of growing season applications a farmer uses influences the rate at which synthetic nitrogen is applied at the field-level. I find that each additional application of N during the growing season is associated with an average increase of 2.4 kg/ha in farmers’ average N application rate. This result counters expectation for the outcome of this practice and may suggest that structural pressures are leading farmers to use additional growing season applications to ensure sufficiently high N rates, rather than allowing them to reduce rates. I conclude by discussing the implication of this study for future research and policy.
Phosphorus availability and leaching losses in annual and perennial cropping systems in an upper US Midwest landscape
AbstractExcessive phosphorus (P) applications to croplands can contribute to eutrophication of surface waters through surface runoff and subsurface (leaching) losses. We analyzed leaching losses of total dissolved P (TDP) from no-till corn, hybrid poplar (Populus nigra X P. maximowiczii), switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), miscanthus (Miscanthus giganteus), native grasses, and restored prairie, all planted in 2008 on former cropland in Michigan, USA. All crops except corn (13 kg P ha−1 year−1) were grown without P fertilization. Biomass was harvested at the end of each growing season except for poplar. Soil water at 1.2 m depth was sampled weekly to biweekly for TDP determination during March–November 2009–2016 using tension lysimeters. Soil test P (0–25 cm depth) was measured every autumn. Soil water TDP concentrations were usually below levels where eutrophication of surface waters is frequently observed (> 0.02 mg L−1) but often higher than in deep groundwater or nearby streams and lakes. Rates of P leaching, estimated from measured concentrations and modeled drainage, did not differ statistically among cropping systems across years; 7-year cropping system means ranged from 0.035 to 0.072 kg P ha−1 year−1 with large interannual variation. Leached P was positively related to STP, which decreased over the 7 years in all systems. These results indicate that both P-fertilized and unfertilized cropping systems may
BACKGROUND Charles Darwin’s Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex tackled the two main controversies arising from the Origin of Species: the evolution of humans from animal ancestors and the evolution of sexual ornaments. Most of the book focuses on the latter, Darwin’s theory of sexual selection. Research since supports his conjecture that songs, perfumes, and intricate dances evolve because they help secure mating partners. Evidence is overwhelming for a primary role of both male and female mate choice in sexual selection—not only through premating courtship but also through intimate interactions during and long after mating. But what makes one prospective mate more enticing than another? Darwin, shaped by misogyny and sexual prudery, invoked a “taste for the beautiful” without speculating on the origin of the “taste.” How to explain when the “final marriage ceremony” is between two rams? What of oral sex in bats, cloacal rubbing in bonobos, or the sexual spectrum in humans, all observable in Darwin’s time? By explaining desire through the lens of those male traits that caught his eyes and those of his gender and culture, Darwin elided these data in his theory of sexual evolution. Work since Darwin has focused on howmore »
Abstract. Relationships between land use and water quality are complex with interdependencies, feedbacks, and legacy effects. Most river water quality studies have assessed catchment land use as areal coverage, but here, we hypothesize and test whether land use intensity – the inputs (fertilizer, livestock) and activities (vegetation removal) of land use – is a better predictor of environmental impact. We use New Zealand (NZ) as a case study because it has had one of the highest rates of agricultural land intensification globally over recent decades. We interpreted water quality state and trends for the 26 years from 1989 to 2014 in the National Rivers Water Quality Network (NRWQN) – consisting of 77 sites on 35 mostly large river systems. To characterize land use intensity, we analyzed spatial and temporal changes in livestock density and land disturbance (i.e., bare soil resulting from vegetation loss by either grazing or forest harvesting) at the catchment scale, as well as fertilizer inputs at the national scale. Using simple multivariate statistical analyses across the 77 catchments, we found that median visual water clarity was best predicted inversely by areal coverage of intensively managed pastures. The primary predictor for all four nutrient variables (TN, NOx, TP, DRP), however, wasmore »
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