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Cropland National Assessment

CEAP Cropland Story Map

Summarizes the highlights of CEAP-Cropland since its inception


The purpose of the National Assessment for Cropland (CEAP-Cropland) is to estimate the environmental benefits and effects of conservation practices applied to cultivated cropland and cropland enrolled in long-term conserving cover (e.g., the Conservation Reserve Program). The first CEAP assessment (CEAP-1) was from farmer survey data collected between 2003 and 2006 and from data from the National Resources Inventory (NRI), NRCS field office records, and the Farm Service Agency. The upcoming second CEAP assessment (CEAP-2) will be from data collected in 2015 and 2016.


The CEAP-Cropland Component of the National Assessment has three specific goals:

  1. Estimate the effects of conservation practices currently present on the landscape.
  2. Estimate the need for conservation practices and the potential benefits of additional conservation treatment.
  3. Simulate alternative options for implementing conservation programs on cropland in the future.

The ultimate goal of CEAP-Cropland is to report conservation effects in terms that represent recognizable outcomes, such as cleaner water and soil quality enhancements that will result in more sustainable and profitable production over time.


Schematic showing the steps described below

CEAP-Cropland uses a sampling and modeling approach to estimate the benefits of conservation practices. The approach consists of four basic steps or activities:

  • First, a subset of National Resources Inventory (NRI) sample points has been selected to serve as "representative fields." These NRI sample points, which are located on cultivated cropland and land in long-term conserving cover, provide the statistical framework for the model as well as information on soils, climate, and topography.
  • Second, USDA developed and implemented the CEAP-Cropland Farmer Surveys to collect the information needed at the selected NRI sample points to run field-level process models and assess the effects of conservation practices. The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) interviews cooperating farmers to obtain current information on farming practices (crops grown, tillage practices, nutrient and pesticide application, conservation practices, etc.)
  • Third, USDA will use the physical process model called APEX (Agricultural Policy Environmental Extender) to estimate field-level benefits. APEX is a variant of the EPIC (Erosion Productivity Impact Calculator) model that allows us to estimate the effects of buffers, grassed waterways, and other erosion control practices. APEX allows estimation of the reductions in soil loss, reductions in nitrogen loss, reductions in phosphorus loss, and reductions in pesticide loss from farm fields. Pesticide loss will be expressed as reductions in pesticide risk. APEX also allows us to evaluate soil quality enhancement as a result of practice implementation.
  • And finally, CEAP-Cropland is integrating the model output from APEX with another model called SWAT/HUMUS (Soil and Water Assessment Tool / Hydrologic Unit Model of the United States) to assess off-site benefits for water quality and availability. HUMUS includes databases on land use and sources of non-point and point source pollutants that are used with the SWAT model to simulate the transport of water and potential pollutants from the land to receiving streams, and routes the flow downstream to the next watershed and ultimately to the estuaries and oceans. SWAT/HUMUS allows estimation of the reduction in in-stream concentrations of sediment, nutrients, and pesticides attributable to implementation of conservation practices.

The CEAP-Cropland National Assessment is a collaborative effort led by NRCS in partnership with USDA's Agricultural Research Service and Texas Agri-Life Research of Texas A&M University. USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service and Farm Service Agency also contribute.

There are a series of documentation reports and associated publications by the modeling team and others that serve as references on the CEAP-Cropland modeling methodology, models and databases.

The findings of the CEAP-Watershed Assessment studies will be used to refine the methods and models used in the National Assessment to better simulate and estimate the effects of conservation practices. CEAP-Watershed Assessment findings will also be used to verify relative trends in results from the regional Cropland National Assessments. Formerly cropped wetlands are addressed within the scope of the CEAP-Wetlands National Assessment. The effects of cropland conservation practices on wildlife or aquatic species are addressed within the scope of the CEAP-Wildlife National Assessment and in some CEAP-Watershed Assessment Studies.


Map showing Water Resource Regions for CEAP-Cropland Regional Assessements

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Lee Norfleet