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Eco-efficiency of Alternative Cropping Systems Managed in an Agricultural Watershed


  • Yiridoe, Emmanuel K.
  • Amon-Armah, Frederick
  • Hebb, Dale
  • Jamieson, Rob


The eco-efficiency index (EEI) framework has been used to determine economically and environmentally optimal nitrogen (N) fertilizer application rates for some pollutants (such as greenhouse gas emissions) for selected agricultural production systems. However, previous EEI applications have not examined N application rates linked to nitrate-N loss from crop production. The research gap is surprising given the importance of nutrient N in crop production and concerns with nitrate-N in groundwater systems. Eco-efficiency of crop production systems are increased for farm management practices which generate higher economic returns and lower negative environmental impacts and, therefore are considered more eco-efficient. Data for the analysis were generated using the SWAT biophysical simulation modeling. The cropping systems evaluated in this study included: i) corn-based cropping systems involving corn-corn-alfalfa-alfalfa-alfalfa (CCAAA), and CCCAA rotations; ii) potato-based cropping systems involving potato-corn-barley-potato-corn (PCBPC) and PBWPC; and iii) vegetable-horticulture cropping system involving potato-winter wheat-potato-carrot-corn (PWRC) all managed under conventional tillage (CT) and no-till (NT) systems. Estimated eco-efficient N fertilizer rates were substantially lower than current NMP-recommended rates (NMP N rates) and the maximum economic rate nitrogen fertilization (MERN). However, the actual amounts depended on the crop and rotation system. CCAAA-CT was the most eco-efficient rotation choice among the corn-based cropping systems considered. Similarly, PCBPC-CT was the most eco-efficient choice among the potato-based production systems. In addition, when the NMP-recommended N rate was replaced by the EE N rate for the vegetable horticulture cropping system, the eco-efficient cropping system shifted from a rotation involving CT to a NT system. Eco-efficient N fertilization rates that explicitly simultaneously considers economic and environmental dimensions of cropping system performance will require substantial trade-offs between farm returns and reduction in nitrate pollution.

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  • Yiridoe, Emmanuel K. & Amon-Armah, Frederick & Hebb, Dale & Jamieson, Rob, 2013. "Eco-efficiency of Alternative Cropping Systems Managed in an Agricultural Watershed," 2013 Annual Meeting, August 4-6, 2013, Washington, D.C. 150357, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:aaea13:150357
    DOI: 10.22004/ag.econ.150357

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Glenn Sheriff, 2005. "Efficient Waste? Why Farmers Over-Apply Nutrients and the Implications for Policy Design," Review of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 27(4), pages 542-557.
    2. Yiridoe, Emmanuel K. & Weersink, Alfons, 1998. "Marginal Abatement Costs of Reducing Groundwater-N Pollution with Intensive and Extensive Farm Management Choices," Agricultural and Resource Economics Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 27(2), pages 169-185, October.
    3. Satya Yadav & Willis Peterson & K. Easter, 1997. "Do farmers overuse nitrogen fertilizer to the detriment of the environment?," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 9(3), pages 323-340, April.
    4. Rajsic, Predrag & Weersink, Alfons, 2008. "Do farmers waste fertilizer? A comparison of ex post optimal nitrogen rates and ex ante recommendations by model, site and year," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 97(1-2), pages 56-67, April.
    5. Van Meensel, Jef & Lauwers, Ludwig & Van Huylenbroeck, Guido & Van Passel, Steven, 2010. "Comparing frontier methods for economic-environmental trade-off analysis," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 207(2), pages 1027-1040, December.
    6. Jollands, Nigel & Lermit, Jonathan & Patterson, Murray, 2004. "Aggregate eco-efficiency indices for New Zealand – a Principal Components Analysis," 2004 Conference, June 25-26, 2004, Blenheim, New Zealand 97773, New Zealand Agricultural and Resource Economics Society.
    7. Zeyuan Qiu, 2005. "Using Multi-Criteria Decision Models to Assess the Economic and Environmental Impacts of Farming Decisions in an Agricultural Watershed," Review of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 27(2), pages 229-244.
    8. Van Passel, Steven & Nevens, Frank & Mathijs, Erik & Van Huylenbroeck, Guido, 2007. "Measuring farm sustainability and explaining differences in sustainable efficiency," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 62(1), pages 149-161, April.
    9. José A. Gómez-Limón & Andrés J. Picazo-Tadeo & Ernest Reig-Martínez, 2011. "Eco-efficiency Assessment of Olive Farms in Andalusia," Working Papers 1105, Department of Applied Economics II, Universidad de Valencia.
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    Crop Production/Industries; Research and Development/Tech Change/Emerging Technologies; Resource /Energy Economics and Policy;

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