An agronomic-economic approach to connect manure nutrients back to grain-producing regions

Joshua M. Duke, Joshua M. McGrath

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Stakeholders for nutrient-impaired watersheds have long discussed the causes and consequences of nutrient surpluses associated with intensive livestock production. Nonetheless, nutrient surpluses relative to crop requirement, particularly with phosphorus (P), persist and continue to contribute to water quality impairment. Nutrient life-cycle analysis shows that mineral P, from soil minerals or mined fertilizer P, flows to livestock regions from grain-producing regions. Although creating a return flow of these nutrients to grain fields seems like an easy solution, significant economic obstacles exist to creating a connected manureshed over large geographic distances. To limit the impact of manure use on local surface water, state, federal, and nongovernmental actors have largely targeted their interventions in manure source areas. Even manure transport programs tend to focus on obstacles at the point of production in manure source areas. However, if we are to realize connected manuresheds that cost-effectively distribute manure nutrients beyond the current publicly funded incentive programs, we must address obstacles to manure utilization in potential sink areas that supply grain to livestock regions. Further, we can harness the power of computer-mediated market design and scientific research to build even more-effective markets that generate manure nutrient transfers of an order of magnitude that will substantively improve water quality in source areas. This manuscript offers economic insights into potential improvements to current manure nutrient relocation programs. Under the right conditions, these improvements will relocate more manure, generate more environmental benefits, and improve the profitability of most participating farmers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)552-565
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Environmental Quality
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors. Journal of Environmental Quality © 2022 American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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