Reducing nonpoint nitrogen to acceptable levels with emphasis on the Upper Mississippi River Basin
- Cite this article as:
- Keeney, D.R. Estuaries (2002) 25: 862. doi:10.1007/BF02804911
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The purpose of this paper is to expand debate about the future landscapes of the upper Midwest of the United States. The paper addresses options that could reinvent the agricultural systems of the Corn Belt, which coincides with the Upper Mississippi River Basin. The changes would move this region from one dependent on a grain economy, with low economic returns and high nutrient and sediment losses, to a more ecologically-based landscape emphasizing nutrient sinks, especially for nitrogen, and a legume base for supplementing fertilizer nitrogen. The reinvented systems require a higher level of management to lessen nitrogen and phosphorus losses while supporting family farms and strong rural communities. This reinvented agriculture would ultimately benefit the Gulf of Mexico by significantly lowering the amount of nitrate exported to the Gulf. The paper is not intended to be a comprehensive review of the literature, nor one that offers the full range of options to address the problems facing the watershed and the owners and operators of the land. Rather, I hope to facilitate discussion of the goals of midwestern U.S. agriculture in relation to ecosystem protection.