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In JoVE (1)

Other Publications (4)

Articles by Philip Gassman in JoVE

 JoVE Biology

Spatial Multiobjective Optimization of Agricultural Conservation Practices using a SWAT Model and an Evolutionary Algorithm

1School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, University of Washington, 2Center for Agricultural and Rural Development, Department of Economics, Iowa State University, 3Department of Civil, Architectural, and Environmental Engineering, North Carolina A&T University, 4Iowa Geological and Water Survey


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This work demonstrates an integration of a water quality model with an optimization component utilizing evolutionary algorithms to solve for optimal (lowest-cost) placement of agricultural conservation practices for a specified set of water quality improvement objectives. The solutions are generated using a multi-objective approach, allowing for explicit quantification of tradeoffs.

Other articles by Philip Gassman on PubMed

Corn-based Ethanol Production and Environmental Quality: a Case of Iowa and the Conservation Reserve Program

Growing demand for corn due to the expansion of ethanol has increased concerns that environmentally sensitive lands retired from agricultural production and enrolled into the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) will be cropped again. Iowa produces more ethanol than any other state in the United States, and it also produces the most corn. Thus, an examination of the impacts of higher crop prices on CRP land in Iowa can give insight into what we might expect nationally in the years ahead if crop prices remain high. We construct CRP land supply curves for various corn prices and then estimate the environmental impacts of cropping CRP land through the Environmental Policy Integrated Climate (EPIC) model. EPIC provides edge-of-field estimates of soil erosion, nutrient loss, and carbon sequestration. We find that incremental impacts increase dramatically as higher corn prices bring into production more and more environmentally fragile land. Maintaining current levels of environmental quality will require substantially higher spending levels. Even allowing for the cost savings that would accrue as CRP land leaves the program, a change in targeting strategies will likely be required to ensure that the most sensitive land does not leave the program.

Assessment of Total Maximum Daily Load Implementation Strategies for Nitrate Impairment of the Raccoon River, Iowa

The state of Iowa requires developing total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) for over 400 water bodies that are listed on the 303(d) list of the impaired waters. The Raccoon River watershed, which covers approximately 9400 km2 of prime agriculture land and represents a typical Midwestern corn-belt region in west-central Iowa, was found to have three stream segments impaired by nitrate-N. The Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) was applied to this watershed to facilitate the development of a TMDL. The modeling framework integrates SWAT with supporting software and databases on topography, land use and management, soil, and weather information. Annual and monthly simulated and measured streamflow and nitrate loads were strongly correlated. The watershed response was evaluated for a suite of watershed management scenarios where land use and management changes were made uniformly across the watershed. A scenario of changing the entire land to row crop resulted in an increased nitrate load of about 12% over the baseline condition at the watershed outlet. Results from the 15 nitrate load reduction strategies were found to reduce nitrate from < 1% to about 85%, with the greatest potential reduction associated with changing the row crops to grassland. This research demonstrated the use of a modeling system to facilitate the analyses of TMDL implementation strategies, including the ability to target the most efficient allocation of alternative practices on a subwatershed basis.

Least-cost Control of Agricultural Nutrient Contributions to the Gulf of Mexico Hypoxic Zone

In 2008, the hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico, measuring 20 720 km2, was one of the two largest reported since measurement of the zone began in 1985. The extent of the hypoxic zone is related to nitrogen and phosphorous loadings originating on agricultural fields in the upper Midwest. This study combines the tools of evolutionary computation with a water quality model and cost data to develop a trade-off frontier for the Upper Mississippi River Basin specifying the least cost of achieving nutrient reductions and the location of the agricultural conservation practices needed. The frontier allows policymakers and stakeholders to explicitly see the trade-offs between cost and nutrient reductions. For example, the cost of reducing annual nitrate-N loadings by 30% is estimated to be US$1.4 billion/year, with a concomitant 36% reduction in P and the cost of reducing annual P loadings by 30% is estimated to be US$370 million/year, with a concomitant 9% reduction in nitrate-N.

Potential Water Quality Changes Due to Corn Expansion in the Upper Mississippi River Basin

While biofuels may yield renewable fuel benefits, there could be downsides in terms of water quality and other environmental stressors, particularly if corn is relied upon exclusively as the feedstock. The consequences of increased corn production will depend importantly on where (and how) the additional corn is grown, which, in turn, depends on the characteristics of land and its associated profitability. Previous work has relied on rules of thumb for allocating land to increased acreage based on historical land use or other heuristics. Here, we advance our understanding of these phenomena by describing a modeling system that links an economics-driven land use model with a watershed-based water quality model for the Upper Mississippi River Basin (UMRB). This modeling system is used to assess the water quality changes due to increased corn acreage, which is associated with higher relative corn prices. We focus on six scenarios based on six realistic pairs of corn and soybean prices which correspond to a scale of decreasing soybean to corn price ratio. These price-driven land use changes provide estimates of the water quality effects that current biofuel policies may have in the UMRB. Our analysis can help evaluate the costs and environmental consequences associated with implementation strategies for the biofuel mandates of the new energy bill. The amounts of total N and P delivered to the outlet of the UMRB (located at Grafton, Illinois, USA) rise as corn production becomes more intensive in the region. Our results indicate that a 14.4% in corn acreage in the watershed due to corn intensification in the most economically profitable locations would result in a 5.4% increase in total nitrogen loads and in a 4.1% increase in total phosphorus loads at Grafton. Our most aggressive scenario, driven by high but not out of reach crop prices, results in about a 57% increase in corn acreage with a corresponding 18.5% increase in N and 12% increase in P. These are somewhat conservative increases in nutrients, compared to those of previous studies, likely due to our focus on cultivated cropland which is already heavily fertilized.

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