Agricultural Phosphorus Balance Calculator: A tool for watershed planning

H. M. Peterson, L. A. Baker, D. Bruening, J. L. Nieber, J. S. Ulrich, B. N. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Best management practices implemented to minimize agricultural phosphorus (P) water quality impacts typically focus on retaining nutrients rather than improving P use efficiencies. Although it is now well understood that long-term reduction of P loadings requires achieving a watershed level P balance, this concept is generally not incorporated in watershed planning. This paper develops a detailed P balance for the Albert Lea Lake watershed, a high production agricultural watershed in south-central Minnesota, United States. Watershed specific crop and livestock management data were acquired through personal interviews, surveys, feedlot permits, and site visits. These data, together with published resources, were used to develop an open-source Agricultural P Balance Calculator to compute P use efficiencies of livestock operations, crop production, and collectively, the watershed's agricultural system. In 2010, the P use efficiency was 1.7, indicating that more P was being exported from the watershed as agricultural products than imported, implying that crops were "mining" P from watershed soils. The Agricultural P Balance Calculator enables users to identify production areas where P use efficiency strategies could be incorporated into conservation implementation planning, thereby enhancing prospects for meeting P reduction goals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)395-404
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Soil and Water Conservation
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Financial support was by the Dynamics of Coupled Human and Natural Systems under BCS-0908998 of the National Science Foundation, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) through US Environmental Protection Agency’s Section 319 Nonpoint Source Grant Program under contract #CON00000001183, the Minnesota Clean Water Fund, and by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Hatch/Multistate projects MIN-12-023 and MIN-12-059. We thank Greg Johnson, senior hydrologist at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in St. Paul, Minnesota; Andy Henschel, director of field operations for the Shell Rock River Watershed District in Albert Lea, Minnesota; and Colin Wittmer, formerly the Freeborn County Minnesota feedlot officer in Freeborn County, Minnesota. We appreciate the expertise contributed by University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota, animal science professors: Gerald Shurson, Alfredo DiConstanzo, Noah Litherland, and Sally Noll.


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