Conservation managers working to reduce agricultural nonpoint source (NPS) pollution through best management practice (BMP) implementation must work in light of competing objectives and multiple constraints. These include the limitations of current decision frameworks, budgets, and socially acceptable practices. All three studies in this dissertation sought to investigate one primary, over-arching question: What strategies should conservation decision makers consider to increase environmental services through BMP implementation on working agricultural lands? The first study addresses this question from a social science perspective, by using focus group methodology to describe and analyze the decision making process of conservation managers working to implement BMPs on agricultural lands in Minnesota. The study develops a descriptive decision framework of local conservation managers, which may be useful to enable evidence-based conservation efforts to overcome the knowledge-implementation gap. A second study addresses this question from physical science and economics perspectives, by comparing rankings of BMP physical effectiveness (% of total phosphorus removed) to BMP cost-effectiveness ($/lb. of total phosphorus removed). Empirical BMP effectiveness studies from five Midwestern states and cost data from Minnesota BMP installations were used. Study results demonstrate the importance of including cost data, along with pollution reduction data, in agricultural BMP decision processes. This research summarizes the wide range of cost-effectiveness values for BMP implementation, both within and between agricultural BMPs, and offers suggestions to use limited conservation resources more efficiently. The third study addresses this question from a techno-economic and policy perspective, by developing a model to estimate the economic feasibility and environmental implications of various scenarios of microwave assisted pyrolysis (MAP) units to process cellulosic biofuels from perennial feedstock BMPs in southern Minnesota. The study finds that the expected economies of scale gained by the mobility of small-scale pyrolysis units are not sufficient to overcome the increased labor costs, but that stationary small-scale distributed pyrolysis units show some economic promise, particularly if environmental benefits are considered. This research is of primary interest to state and perhaps federal-level policy makers working to design efficient and effective programs to implement BMPs to improve water quality and increase the provision of environmental services on working agricultural lands.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. September 2015. Major: Natural Resources Science and Management. Advisors: Dean Current, Michael Kilgore. 1 computer file (PDF); xi, 277 pages.
Increasing the Environmental Services of Working Agricultural Lands Through Best Management Practices.
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