Date of this Version
Monhollon, Luke (2020). Incorporating Spatial Variability into Integrated Models of Agricultural Practices and Sustainability (Masters Thesis). Retrieved from Digital Commons.
Agriculture is increasing humanity’s impact on global sustainability. Agricultural intensification increases or stabilizes production through intertwining food, energy, and water (FEW) resources. Meeting the demand for 9 billion people by 2050 may result in irreparable damage to the environment through excessive release of greenhouse gases, nutrient run-off, biodiversity loss, and over-appropriation of natural resources. Measurements of environmental damage are achieved through life cycle assessments (LCA) and spatial modeling. While individual components with FEW systems are understood and are representable using models, impacts of policies and decisions are unknown. Current attempts to quantify FEW system impacts are hampered by insufficient spatial information to address variations in local operations. In highly interconnected agricultural FEW systems, such as the corn-water-ethanol- beef nexus in the Midwest US, individual operators are the drivers of sustainability. Many producers rely upon USDA or university supported Agriculture Extension Services (AES) for comprehension of recent advances in agricultural research and integration assistance. This knowledge base is an underutilized resource for guiding sustainability studies and integrating conservation concerns with implementing precision-ag innovations. Publications, such as Extension Crop Budgets, are supported with local scientific findings and operational considerations. Crop budgets may fill a critical gap linking field characteristics to spatial LCA models. The objectives of this thesis are: (1) to review current FEW Nexus literature regarding integrated modeling, (2) to explore the utility of AES resources to guide an LCA of agriculture, and (3) to evaluate a portion of the FEW Nexus with an interconnected spatial model based on AES resources.
Advisors: Deepak Keshwani and Carl Nelson