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  1. Abstract Excessive 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 themore »7 years in all systems. These results indicate that both P-fertilized and unfertilized cropping systems may leach legacy P from past cropland management.« less
  2. 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.
  3. Long-term monitoring programs are a fundamental part of both understanding ecological systems and informing management decisions. However, there are many constraints which might prevent monitoring programs from being designed to consider statistical power, site selection, or the full costs and benefits of monitoring. Key considerations can be incorporated into the optimal design of a management program with simulations and experiments. Here, we advocate for the expanded use of a third approach: non-random resampling of previously-collected data. This approach conducts experiments with available data to understand the consequences of different monitoring approaches. We first illustrate non-random resampling in determining the optimal length and frequency of monitoring programs to assess species trends. We then apply the approach to a pair of additional case studies, from fisheries and agriculture. Non-random resampling of previously-collected data is underutilized, but has the potential to improve monitoring programs.
  4. Scholars are increasingly calling for the environmental issues of the industrial agricultural system to be addressed via eventual agroecological system-level transformation. It is critical to identify the barriers to this transition. Drawing from Henke’s (Cultivating science, harvesting power: science and industrial agriculture in California, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2008) theory of “repair,” we explore how farmers participate in the reproduction of the industrial system through “discursive repair,” or arguing for the continuation of the industrial agriculture system. Our empirical case relates to water pollution from nitrogen fertilizer and draws data from a sample of over 150 interviews with row-crop farmers in the midwestern United States. We find that farmers defend this system by denying agriculture’s causal role and proposing the potential for within-system solutions. They perform these defenses by drawing on ideological positions (agrarianism, market-fundamentalism and techno-optimism) and may be ultimately led to seek system maintenance because they are unable to envision an alternative to the industrial agriculture system.