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Determining the cost of in-field mitigation options to reduce sediment and phosphorus loss.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date01/2013
JournalLand Use Policy
Journal number1
Volume30
Number of pages9
Pages234-242
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

The Mitigation Options for Phosphorus and Sediment (MOPS) project investigated the effectiveness of within-field control measures (tramline management, straw residue management, type of cultivation and direction, and vegetative buffers) in terms of mitigating sediment and phosphorus loss from winter-sown combinable cereal crops using three case study sites. To determine the cost of the approaches, simple financial spreadsheet models were constructed at both farm and regional levels. Taking into account crop areas, crop rotation margins per hectare were calculated to reflect the costs of crop establishment, fertiliser and agro-chemical applications, harvesting, and the associated labour and machinery costs. Variable and operating costs associated with each mitigation option were then incorporated to demonstrate the impact on the relevant crop enterprise and crop rotation margins. These costs were then compared to runoff, sediment and phosphorus loss data obtained from monitoring hillslope-length scale field plots. Each of the mitigation options explored in this study had potential for reducing sediment and phosphorus losses from arable land under cereal crops. Sediment losses were reduced from between 9 kg ha−1 to as much as 4780 kg ha−1 with a corresponding reduction in phosphorus loss from 0.03 kg ha−1 to 2.89 kg ha−1. In percentage terms reductions of phosphorus were between 9% and 99%. Impacts on crop rotation margins also varied. Minimum tillage resulted in cost savings (up to £50 ha−1) whilst other options showed increased costs (up to £19 ha−1 for straw residue incorporation). Overall, the results indicate that each of the options has potential for on-farm implementation. However, tramline management appeared to have the greatest potential for reducing runoff, sediment, and phosphorus losses from arable land (between 69% and 99%) and is likely to be considered cost-effective with only a small additional cost of £2–4 ha−1, although further work is needed to evaluate alternative tramline management methods. Tramline management is also the only option not incorporated within current policy mechanisms associated with reducing soil erosion and phosphorus loss and in light of its potential is an approach that should be encouraged once further evidence is available.