Adoption potential of nitrate mitigation practices: An ecosystem services approach

Laura Christianson, Tricia Knoot, Drake Larsen, John Tyndall, Matthew Helmers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Nitrate pollution from agricultural drainage has caused water quality concerns worldwide, but there are several promising technologies to help mitigate this environmental degradation. While these practices primarily aim to improve water quality, they may also provide other 'additive' benefits or ecosystem services and the awareness of such benefits may influence their potential to be adopted by farmers. To investigate the impact that perceived ecosystem services has on a practice's adoption potential, we used a mixed methods approach consisting of a literature review, producer surveys, and a group discussion to explore farmer interest in and perceived benefits (on-farm and regional) of seven subsurface drainage nitrate reduction practices (controlled drainage, bioreactors, wetlands, nitrogen management rate, nitrogen management timing, cover crops, and diversified crop rotations). The nitrogen management practices were shown to be accessible and realistic options for water quality improvement as they elicited high interest and had the highest level of compatibility. However, these practices did not provide many other complementary ecosystem services. Conversely, wetlands had a high literature review-derived ecosystem service count, but were considered to have low compatibility, and survey respondents indicated less interest in this practice. The practice of cover cropping showed more moderate, yet consistently positive results for all factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)407-424
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Agricultural Sustainability
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by project number [GNC09–103] from the USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education North Central Region Graduate Student Grant Programme. The lead author’s time was also supported by [grant number 2011-67011-30648] from the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grants programme of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.


  • adoption
  • agricultural drainage
  • ecosystem services
  • multifunctional agriculture
  • water quality


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