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Title:A holistic assessment for benchmarking the sustainability of maize production in the US Midwest
Author(s):Riccetto Aguirrezabala, Sara Magdalena
Advisor(s):Pittelkow, Cameron M
Contributor(s):Davis, ADam; Guan, Kaiyu
Department / Program:Crop Sciences
Discipline:Crop Sciences
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree:M.S.
Genre:Thesis
Subject(s):sustainable intensification, holistic assessment
Abstract:Achieving efficient and environmentally sustainable agricultural systems is a key issue for the US Midwest, the world’s largest maize producer. In this study we benchmarked the sustainability of maize production using an integrated set of performance criteria to identify regions where desirable outcomes are occurring, while also highlighting opportunities for improvement. We calculated the following indicators for Illinois (IL), Indiana (IN), and Iowa (IA) evaluated from 1995-2012: Yield gaps (Yg), water productivity (Wp), nitrogen partial productivity (Npp), nitrogen surplus (Ns), minimum yield potential (Myp) and coefficient of variation of yield (Cv). Our analysis of this geospatial dataset revealed high spatial and temporal variability of these indicators, with several notable trends detected over the study period. Statewide averages ranged from 20.1-24.7% for Yg, 13.8-14.7 kg mm-1 for Wp, 13.1-17.3 kg ha-1 for Ns, 46.9- 53.2 for Npp, 14.4-17.9 % for Cv and 6- 7.3 Mg ha-1 for Myp. Southern IA was generally the region associated with a decreasing performance across indicators, while western IA was the region that showed the greatest improvement over time. When integrating different indicators, coldspots (defined as regions with undesirable outcomes) were roughly six times as frequent as hotspots (regions with desirable outcomes), highlighting the challenge in balancing agronomic and environmental goals to achieve sustainable production in this region. In particular, southern regions of the three states were associated with the most concerning performance, while the northern regions exhibited more favorable outcomes. When pairwise relationships between Yg, Wp and Npp were evaluated to identify potential synergies and tradeoffs, our results showed that Yg and Wp were positively related in most of the study area, while no consistent synergies or tradeoffs were detected between Yg and Npp, and between Wp and Npp. This study is one of the first to assess maize yield performance at the county-scale with resource use efficiency and environmental indicators in a holistic analysis to advance sustainable intensification efforts for this region.
Issue Date:2018-04-12
Type:Thesis
URI:http://hdl.handle.net/2142/101298
Rights Information:Copyright 2018 Sara Riccetto Aguirrezabala
Date Available in IDEALS:2018-09-04
Date Deposited:2018-05


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