Producer Education of Nitrate Reduction Strategies and Evaluation of Acceptance
2011 was a busy year for the project as all project objectives were performed during this time. Farm-scale cost efficiency metrics were developed for seven nitrate-reducing methods for agricultural drainage water quality improvement (wetlands, controlled drainage, cover crops, crop rotation, fertilizer rate reduction, fertilizer timing modification, and denitrification bioreactors). This economic comparison was used to create an educational program which was presented at five field events during summer 2011. It was additionally possible to hold a “discussion group” with farmers to further explore the concept of ecosystem services and the perceived benefits offered by these technologies to the broader region.
The goal of this work is to provide producers increased understanding of nitrate reduction technologies and to provide researchers enhanced knowledge of producer acceptance of various nitrate reduction approaches so as to better focus research and education. At the end of the 2011 project grant period (30 September 2011), all major work tasks, barring submission/acceptance of results for publication, had been performed. The proposed Performance Targets for this year included:
• Development of the economic analysis to assess the cost efficiency of the seven drainage water quality improvement technologies (wetlands, controlled drainage, cover crops, crop rotation, fertilizer rate reduction, fertilizer timing modification, and denitrification bioreactors)
• Development of an educational program focused on this comparison of the seven drainage water quality improvement technologies
• Presentation of this program at five field events with a post-event survey mailed to participants afterwards
• Analysis of survey results
• Creation of a university extension factsheet focused on the newest of the technologies, denitrification bioreactors
Consistent with the proposal and 2010 Annual Report, a short term outcome is increased knowledge of costs and benefits of various nitrate reduction strategies, including the new technology of denitrification bioreactors, for producers, land owners, and contractors. Additionally, on a more basic level, these programming efforts will also increase producer understanding that there is a nitrate water quality problem associated with agricultural drainage.
Intermediate outcomes include assessment of factors limiting implementation of nitrate reduction strategies allowing more focused research and education. It is thought this assessment will be informed by the producers’ survey results. Other intermediate outputs include this evaluation being incorporated into the Project Director’s Ph.D. dissertation and into peer-reviewed journal publications.
At the end of the 2011 project grant period (30 September 2011), all major work tasks, barring submission/acceptance of results for publication, had been performed. As of the project end date:
• The economic analysis was completed, had undergone internal “expert opinion” reviews and was included in the Project Director’s Ph.D. dissertation. The Project Director defended on 3 October 2011, shortly after the project end date. This economic work is currently being revised for submission to a peer-reviewed journal.
• The water quality program had been presented at five Iowa Learning Farms Field Events over summer 2011. Economic information in terms of dollars per acre treated and dollars per pound of nitrate removed as well as brief discussion of additional environmental benefits provided by each technology were included in the program. A comparison handout with illustrations of the seven technologies and their associated cost efficiencies was a key part of these events.
• The associated program survey data analysis and writing have since been nearly completed after the project end date. This publication is anticipated to be submitted for peer-review in early summer 2012.
• A supplementary discussion group with farmers was held on 13 September 2011 to gain a better understanding of benefits beyond water quality that were perceived to be associated with these technologies. Data from this discussion group will be included with the publication containing the program participant survey results.
• A university extension factsheet on denitrification bioreactors was in final draft form as of the project end date.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Pursuant with the 2010 Annual Project report: A major goal of this work is to improve producer understanding of these nitrate reduction technologies. The primary short term outcome is to increase producer and landowner knowledge of costs and benefits of various nitrate reduction strategies. Preliminary evaluation of the producer survey results did indeed indicate the programming efforts increased interest in several of the water quality technologies. Additionally, on a more basic level, this program will also increase producer understanding that there is a nitrate water quality problem associated with agricultural drainage. In the more intermediate term, this work aims to assess the factors limiting implementation of nitrate reduction strategies allowing more focused research and education for producers.
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