Stuart, D., R. L. Schewe, and M. McDermott. 2014. Reducing nitrogen fertilizer application as a climate change mitigation strategy: Understanding farmer decision-making and potential barriers to change in the US. Land Use Policy 36:210-218.
Nitrogen fertilizer use in agriculture is associated with water pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. While practices and programs to reduce nitrogen fertilizer application continue to be developed, inefficient fertilizer use persists and little is known about farmer decision-making regarding application rates. The purpose of this study was to explore farmer decision-making in the context of reducing the application of nitrogen fertilizer as a climate change mitigation strategy and to assess barriers to reduced application and participating in a potential offsets program. Research methods included mail surveys, interviews, and focus groups with corn farmers in Michigan, United States (US). Results indicate that potential barriers to increasing nitrogen use efficiency for climate change mitigation include: perceptions about climate change, limited access to information and technological tools, and constraints imposed by the political economy of US agriculture. Education programs, government subsidies or cost-sharing programs, and including influential market and political actors in discussions about fertilizer use and climate change mitigation may address some of these barriers. Policies and programs focused on nitrogen fertilizer use and climate change mitigation in agriculture should be aware of these barriers and how they might be addressed.
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