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Sci Total Environ. 2016 Mar 15;547:269-281. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2015.12.130. Epub 2016 Jan 11.

Tackling agricultural diffuse pollution: What might uptake of farmer-preferred measures deliver for emissions to water and air?

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Sustainable Soils and Grassland Systems Department, Rothamsted Research, North Wyke, Okehampton EX20 2SB, UK. Electronic address:
Sustainable Soils and Grassland Systems Department, Rothamsted Research, North Wyke, Okehampton EX20 2SB, UK.
Centre for Rural Policy Research, University of Exeter, Exeter EX4 4SB, UK.
School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, Queen Mary University of London, Mile End Road, London E1 4NS, UK.
School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol, University Road, Bristol BS8 1SS, UK.
Eden Rivers Trust, Newton Rigg College, Newton Rigg, Penrith, Cumbria CA11 0AH, UK.
School of Environmental Science, University of East Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ, UK.
Farm Systems and Environment Ltd, Low Road, Wortwell, Norfolk IP20 0HJ, UK.


Mitigation of agricultural diffuse pollution poses a significant policy challenge across Europe and particularly in the UK. Existing combined regulatory and voluntary approaches applied in the UK continue to fail to deliver the necessary environmental outcomes for a variety of reasons including failure to achieve high adoption rates. It is therefore logical to identify specific on-farm mitigation measures towards which farmers express positive attitudes for higher future uptake rates. Accordingly, a farmer attitudinal survey was undertaken during phase one of the Demonstration Test Catchment programme in England to understand those measures towards which surveyed farmers are most receptive to increasing implementation in the future. A total of 29 on-farm measures were shortlisted by this baseline farm survey. This shortlist comprised many low cost or cost-neutral measures suggesting that costs continue to represent a principal selection criterion for many farmers. The 29 measures were mapped onto relevant major farm types and input, assuming 95% uptake, to a national scale multi-pollutant modelling framework to predict the technically feasible impact on annual agricultural emissions to water and air, relative to business as usual. Simulated median emission reductions, relative to current practise, for water management catchments across England and Wales, were estimated to be in the order sediment (20%)>ammonia (16%)>total phosphorus (15%) ≫ nitrate/methane (11%)>nitrous oxide (7%). The corresponding median annual total cost of the modelled scenario to farmers was £3 ha(-1)yr(-1), with a corresponding range of -£84 ha(-1)yr(-1) (i.e. a net saving) to £33 ha(-1)yr(-1). The results suggest that those mitigation measures which surveyed farmers are most inclined to implement in the future would improve the environmental performance of agriculture in England and Wales at minimum to low cost per hectare.


Agricultural pollution; Farmer attitudes; Mitigation; Multi-pollutant modelling; Uncertainty

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