Farmers' Incentives to Reduce Groundwater Nitrates

by Gilbert D. Miller, Utah State Univ, Logan, United States,
Jay C. Andersen, Utah State Univ, Logan, United States,

Abstract: Nitrate leaching from irrigated crops is a productive input loss to the farmer and a possible source of environmental degradation. This study uses a simulation model to analyze incentives for farmers to manage irrigation applications to limit the amount of nitrates that leach out of the root zone. The consequences of overapplication and nonuniform distribution on net returns and nitrate leaching are evaluated. The incentives to employ various irrigation management practices and technologies are explored using a fixed water cost per hectare and also a cost per m3 of water applied. In the simulations, the highest returns to management and the lowest nitrate leaching were achieved using center pivot technology and irrigation scheduling using crop ET requirements on fine sandy loam. Farmers had greater incentive to increase irrigation efficiency under the cost per m3 scenario. Water costs may result in farmers not growing low-valued crops as the cost per m3 increases above a minimal level.

Subject Headings: Nitrates | Irrigation | Leaching | Crops | Environmental issues | Chemical degradation | Model analysis

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