Nutrient Reduction in Agricultural Watersheds


Sustainable solutions for nutrient management at the watershed scale must include agricultural sources of nutrients. Agriculture is one of the key components of the physical system that will be studied in the CLEAN Center. The overall goal of the studies on crop production and livestock agriculture is to build innovative capacities for targeted implementation of environmentally effective and socioeconomically viable agricultural conservation practices (also referred to as BMPs) at the watershed scale. The research, education, and extension activities will be conducted in two distinct agro-ecological regions, the humid southeast with a riparian doctrine approach to water management (North Carolina) and the semi-arid west, with prior-appropriation allocation of water (Colorado).

In both watersheds, monitoring will help identify appropriate practices or placement within the watershed. Further analysis of farmer key informant or mail surveys, modeling, and economic analysis will help determine water quality trading strategies in North Carolina and manure handling strategies in Colorado. The following activities guide identifying sustainable solutions:

  • Conduct paired watershed analysis in the Neuse River Basin in North Carolina to assess the water quality benefits of commonly-used practices such as tillage and residue management, nutrient management, cover crops, and grassed waterways.
  • Identify effective practices using facility and field studies for manure management in the South Platte River Basin, Colorado.
  • Understand factors that influence adoption of agricultural conservation practices in North Carolina and Colorado.
  • Identify simple and transparent approaches for incorporating watershed-scale benefits of conservation practices into conservation planning field tools.

The expected outcome of the research, modeling, and synthesis is to provide better analysis and decision making relative to spatial implementation of conservation practices in a watershed.


The objectives of this project are to:

Understand the effectiveness of agricultural conservation practices for N and P control.

Understand and characterize socioeconomic factors that influence adoption of agricultural BMPs.

Develop a simple and practical model for representation of practices at field and watershed scales.


Drs. Osmond and Hoag published the results of a current study on factors influencing farmer’s decision on adoption of nutrient management technologies. For more information about this paper entitled”Improving Nitrogen Use Efficiency in Crop and Livestock Production Systems”, click here.

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Deanna Osmond
Troy Bauder