Science Inventory

A review of ecosystem services from edge-of-field practices in tile-drained agricultural systems in the United States Corn Belt Region


Mitchell, M., T. Newcomer Johnson, J. Christensen, W. Crumpton, B. Dyson, T. Canfield, M. Helmers, AND K. Forshay. A review of ecosystem services from edge-of-field practices in tile-drained agricultural systems in the United States Corn Belt Region. JOURNAL OF ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT. Elsevier Science Ltd, New York, NY, 348:119220, (2023).


Several agricultural management practices are available to stakeholders that address nutrient losses from row-crop agricultural systems in the Midwest. However, there is a lack of information available to decision-makers in the Midwest regarding the the potential services and disservices associated with the installation of these management practices, specifically edge-of-field practices. With the goal of informing important land management decisions in the region, in this review we identified practices that can operate on the edge of agricultural fields and the potential services and disservices that they provide.


Edge-of-field management practices that reduce nutrient pollution from tile drainage while contributing habitat and other ecosystem services are needed to enhance US Corn Belt agricultural systems. In this review, we identified edge-of-field and catchment scale agricultural conservation practices for intercepting and treating tile drainage. The reviewed conservation practices were (1) controlled drainage, also known as drainage water management (USDA-NRCS Code 554); (2) drainage water recycling (USDA-NRCS Code 447); (3) denitrifying bioreactors (USDA-NRCS Code 605); (4) saturated buffers (USDA-NRCS Code 604); and (5) constructed or restored wetlands designed for water quality improvement (USDA-NRCS Code 656) herein referred to as water quality wetlands. We examined 119 studies that had information on one or more of the following ecosystem services: water retention, water quality improvement (e.g., nitrate, phosphate, sediment, or pesticide retention), wetland habitat (for birds, aquatic organisms, and pollinators), crop yield improvement, and other benefits (e.g., recreation, education, aesthetic appreciation, greenhouse gas retention). We found the five edge-of-field practices were all effective at removing nitrate with varying degrees of other potential benefits and disservices (e.g., greenhouse gas production). Drainage water recycling and water quality wetlands have the potential to provide the most co-benefits as they provide surface water systems for capturing surface flows in addition to tile drainage while also potentially providing habitat and recreation opportunities. However, the following research needs are identified: 1) the disservices and benefits associated with drainage water recycling have not been adequately evaluated; 2) surface flow dynamics are understudied across all reviewed management practices; 3) a complete accounting of phosphorus species and flow pathways for all management practices is needed; 4) field evaluations of the habitat benefit of all management practices is needed; and 5) greenhouse gas dynamics are understudied across all management practices. While all management practices are expected to reduce nitrate loads, addressing these knowledge gaps will help inform management decisions for diverse stakeholders across the US Corn Belt.

Record Details:

Product Published Date:12/15/2023
Record Last Revised:02/14/2024
OMB Category:Other
Record ID: 360428