Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science




Sustainable Agriculture

First Advisor

J. Gordon Arbuckle


Over the last several decades, the negative effects of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution on aquatic and marine ecosystems have been increasingly well-documented. Nutrient fertilizers run off of farm fields, enter regional waterways in the Mississippi River Basin, and ultimately accumulate in the Gulf of Mexico. As a response, in 2013, the State of Iowa released the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy that outlines goals to reduce losses of nitrogen and phosphorus into waterways for both urban and rural contributors. The Iowa Strategy, which is a voluntary approach to addressing water quality impairments, outlines a series of conservation practices that farmers can use on their farms to reduce these losses.

This thesis is a sociological examination of conservation adoption among corn and soybean farmers in the U.S Corn Belt Region of the United States. In the text, we pose the following questions: What are the social network factors that are associated with the diversity in the nutrient management practices used by farmers? How do farmers who are recognized as exemplary stewards build resilient farming operations? These questions are explored through the lens of a theoretical framework that uses the diffusion of innovations theory and complex adaptive systems theory. Both qualitative and quantitative methods are used to address the above research questions. Findings from this research show that contextual and social network factors may have a significant impact on conservation adoption. The thesis concludes with a discussion on implications our findings may have on current nutrient reduction policies in agriculture as well as future research directions in understanding conservation practice adoption.


Copyright Owner

Hanna Teresa Rosman



File Format


File Size

95 pages