Nutrient Management in the Wabash River Basin

Evaluating nutrient management practices

A tractor applying fertilizer to a crop field
Photo courtesy of Lynn Betts, USDA-NRCS

Nutrient pollution in the Midwest is a result of human activities—including fertilizer application rates and timing and the adoption of best practices—and climate, which can affect the rate of nutrient runoff.

Most research into this issue is conducted either on highly controlled plots at research stations or via large-scale modeling efforts. In this project, IU Associate Professor Adam Ward and his collaborators are partnering directly with an Indiana-based farming cooperative to assess soil quality and nutrient losses as a function of climate forcing and application of cover crops.

The opportunity to work in partnership with landowners is a rarity. With Hoosier farmers’ permission, researchers are collecting data on farm soil quality, fertilizer and pesticide application, crop yield, and more. The data is helping researchers understand important biological, geological, and chemical cycles that affect agriculture’s environmental footprint and the role management practices, such as cover crops, play in influencing those cycles.

Ward’s team will also be creating a high-resolution model that accounts for fertilizer management and many other variables that affect farm productivity and environmental impact.