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Western Lake Erie Basin Special Study

Effects of Conservation Practice Adoption on Cultivated Cropland Acres in Western Lake Erie Basin, 2003-06 and 2012

Western Lake Erie Basin cover

In March 2016, NRCS released the CEAP-Cropland report on the effects of recently adopted conservation practices on cropland in Western Lake Erie Basin (WLEB). This report, using farmer survey data collected in 2003-06 and in 2012, demonstrates that during the time between the two surveys, agricultural producers have significantly increased their use of an array of conservation measures to improve and protect water and soil quality in WLEB. The publication evaluates the impacts of voluntary conservation efforts in WLEB and also specifies future conservation treatment needs.

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Major findings from the Western Lake Erie Basin special study are listed below and summarized in the key findings. More specific details on effects of practices are in the full report and the executive summary.

  • Farmers maintained conservation practices, cropland acreage, and crop mixes despite higher commodity prices.
  • The cost of conservation practices in place represents a significant annual investment, rising from $208 million in 2003-06 to $277 million in 2012.
  • Compared to a no-practice scenario, voluntary conservation practices in use on WLEB cropland in 2012 reduce annual sediment losses by 81 percent (9.1 million tons per year), reduce total nitrogen losses by 36 percent (40.6 million pounds per year), and reduce total phosphorus losses by 75 percent (11.4 million pounds per year). Harvested crops remove an average of 87 percent of the average phosphorus applied annually to cropland.
  • No single conservation solution will meet the needs of each field and farm.
  • Additional progress in nutrient and erosion control will depend on advanced precision technologies.


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