Nitrogen from agricultural production is a major cause of pollution in the Mississippi River Basin and contributes to large dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico.
Illinois and other Midwestern states have set goals to reduce nitrogen load through strategies that include different land management practices. A new study from University of Illinois researchers, published in Journal of Environmental Management, uses computer modeling to estimate how those practices may be affected by potential changes in the climate, such as increased rainfall.
“The goal was to test whether those land management practices are useful in reducing nitrogen load in the water under different climate scenarios,” says Congyu Hou, doctoral student in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering and lead author on the study.
Using field data on soil properties, land use, land management practices, and weather patterns from the Willow Creek Watershed in Oklahoma, the researchers estimated surface runoff and nitrogen load at the field-scale level. Their model included 12 land management practices and 32 climate projections for the years 2020 to 2070, yielding a total of 384 scenarios.
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