Review of Filter Strip Performance and Function for Improving Water Quality from Agricultural Lands

Douglas-Mankin, Kyle R.
Helmers, Matthew
Harmel, R. Daren
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American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers
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Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering
Filter strips (FSs) are edge-of-field conservation practices commonly implemented to reduce flux of sediment, nutrients, and other constituents from agricultural fields. While various aspects of FS effectiveness have been reviewed, this study provides a comprehensive summary of FS efficiency data for sediment, nutrients, pesticides, and pathogens as part of a special collection focused on agricultural conservation practices. This analysis also fills an important gap by assessing performance-based FS costs and cost-effectiveness. Data from 74 U.S. and international studies with 294 different treatments and 3,050 replications were compiled and analyzed. Results showed that runoff reduction tended to increase with increasing FS width up to about 15 m and that sediment reduction was significantly related to the ratio of FS area to drainage area and to FS width, with reduction tending to increase with increasing width up to about 20 m. Total P reduction was significantly related to FS soil saturated hydraulic conductivity, and total N reduction was significantly related to both saturated hydraulic conductivity and width. Total P and total N reductions both tended to increase with increasing FS width up to about 20 m and with increasing FS slope up to about 10%. Annualized FS costs were estimated to range from $314 to $865 ha-1 year-1 for different FS implementations. A major component of the cost is the opportunity cost of taking land out of production. Costs per unit of sediment retained by FS systems ranged from $10.3 to $18.6 Mg-1. A comprehensive assessment of FS cost-effectiveness (cost:benefit) is needed. Monitoring equipment, approaches, and recommendations are discussed, acknowledging the challenges of implementing field-scale FS studies. This information is critical to guide on-farm and programmatic FS decisions and to increase the scientific understanding of this commonly used agricultural conservation practice.
This article is published as Douglas-Mankin, Kyle R., Matthew J. Helmers, and R. Daren Harmel. "Review of filter strip performance and function for improving water quality from agricultural lands." Transactions of the ASABE 64, no. 2 (2021): 659-674. DOI: 10.13031/trans.14169. Works produced by employees of the U.S. Government as part of their official duties are not copyrighted within the U.S. The content of this document is not copyrighted.