Campus Units

Natural Resource Ecology and Management

Document Type


Publication Version

Accepted Manuscript

Publication Date


Journal or Book Title

Water Resources Research




The U.S. Corn Belt is highly productive with respect to grain and livestock commodities but often neglects to deliver other benefits such as soil stability, nutrient retention, and clean water. New precision technologies and conservation planning frameworks offer opportunities to adapt the current agricultural system to meet environmental goals along with production by strategically placing best management practices (BMPs) to target and address specific in‐field resource concerns. To understand farmers’ and farmland owners’ willingness to participate in such targeting schemes, we conducted in‐depth interviews with 18 farmers and farmland owners whose fields were targeted for soil and nutrient loss in two watersheds in central Iowa. We examined their current application of BMPs and opportunities and constraints to further adoption. We found that farmers and farmland owners often recognized the importance of producing a diverse suite of on‐ and off‐farm environmental benefits, but lacked the context, information, certainty, and strong incentives to manage for them. Interviewees were generally receptive to using technologies to target BMPs to areas with resource concerns, but expressed concerns about applications on their own land. They specifically perceived challenges related to cost, management complexity, coordination with government programs, and loss of autonomy. For broad acceptance, a spatially targeted conservation approach would need to be paired with expanded partnerships, trusted technical service, and adaptation incentives to reduce farm‐level economic tradeoffs.


This is a manuscript of an article published as Zimmerman, E. K., J. C. Tyndall, L. A. Schulte, and GL D. Larson. "Farmer and Farmland Owner Views on Spatial Targeting for Soil Conservation and Water Quality." Water Resources Research (2019). doi: 10.1029/2018WR023230. Posted with permission.

Copyright Owner

American Geophysical Union



File Format


Published Version