Agricultural Producer Perspectives on the Adoption of Conservation Practices, Water Quality, and Climate Change in Big Creek and Lime Creek Watersheds
The Mississippi River Basin (MRB) contains prime farmland that has produced high-value, nutrient intensive crops for food, fiber, and fuel. Prairie, forest and river ecosystems that support diverse plant and animal communities are also found within the MRB. Because of an increase and intensification of agricultural production in the MRB since European settlement, plant and animal habitats have degraded. Aquatic and riparian ecosystems have been particularly impacted by intensive agricultural practices. Increases in sediment and nutrient loading, exacerbated in part by channelization and tile drainage, have resulted in impaired water quality throughout the MRB. Nutrient loading has led to extensive eutrophication that has culminated in the creation of a hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico. Midwestern states within the MRB contribute the greatest contribution of nutrient loads to the Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone. Recent implementation of tile drainage and reversion of Conservation Reserve Program lands to cropland in the basin may increase the effects of nutrient loading and dramatically reduce wildlife habitat.
To address water quality and wildlife issues in the MRB, a partnership between researchers at the US Geologic Service, Oregon State University, and Purdue University created a project to investigate the barriers and opportunities of adoption of conservation practices by agricultural producers in three sub-watersheds in the MRB. This investigation also gauged rates of adoption of different conservation practices which increase water quality or habitat that qualify for federal cost-share programs. Understanding what factors influence farmers' management decisions can help researchers understand why practices are adopted or have a high likelihood of adoption now or in the future. Understanding decision making as it relates to adoption can inform water quality and habitat models that predict what may happen to hypoxic areas in the Gulf of Mexico in the future if there are precipitation and temperature changes in the MRB.
The following data are the results of interviews in Big Creek watershed located in Posey County in southwestern Indiana and Lime Creek watershed located in Buchanan and Benton Counties in northeastern Iowa. Interviews were conducted in Big Creek watershed with 18 agricultural producers in May and June, 2015 and Lime Creek watershed with 16 agricultural producers in February and March, 2016.