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Essays on socially optimal phosphorus policies in crop production

Iho, Antti (2010) Essays on socially optimal phosphorus policies in crop production. PhD thesis, MTT Agrifood Research Finland. MTT Science, no. 13. MTT Agrifood Research Finland.

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Summary

Phosphorus is a nutrient needed in crop production. While boosting crop yields it may also accelerate eutrophication in the surface waters receiving the phosphorus runoff. The privately optimal level of phosphorus use is determined by the input and output prices, and the crop response to phosphorus. Socially optimal use also takes into account the impact of phosphorus runoff on water quality. Increased eutrophication decreases the economic value of surface waters by deteriorating fish stocks, curtailing the potential for recreational activities and by increasing the probabilities of mass algae blooms. In this dissertation, the optimal use of phosphorus is modelled as a dynamic optimization problem. The potentially plant available phosphorus accumulated in soil is treated as a dynamic state variable, the control variable being the annual phosphorus fertilization. For crop response to phosphorus, the state variable is more important than the annual fertilization. The level of this state variable is also a key determinant of the runoff of dissolved, reactive phosphorus. Also the loss of particulate phosphorus due to erosion is considered in the thesis, as well as its mitigation by constructing vegetative buffers. The dynamic model is applied for cereal production on clay soils. At the steady state, the analysis focuses on the effects of prices, damage parameterization, discount rate and soil phosphorus carryover capacity on optimal steady state phosphorus use. The economic instruments needed to sustain the social optimum are also analyzed. According to the results the economic incentives should be conditioned on soil phosphorus values directly, rather than on annual phosphorus applications. The results also emphasize the substantial effects the differences in varying discount rates of the farmer and the social planner have on optimal instruments. The thesis analyzes the optimal soil phosphorus paths from its alternative initial levels. It also examines how erosion susceptibility of a parcel affects these optimal paths. The results underline the significance of the prevailing soil phosphorus status on optimal fertilization levels. With very high initial soil phosphorus levels, both the privately and socially optimal phosphorus application levels are close to zero as the state variable is driven towards its steady state. The soil phosphorus processes are slow. Therefore, depleting high phosphorus soils may take decades. The thesis also presents a methodologically interesting phenomenon in problems of maximizing the flow of discounted payoffs. When both the benefits and damages are related to the same state variable, the steady state solution may have an interesting property, under very general conditions: The tail of the payoffs of the privately optimal path - as well as the steady state - may provide a higher social welfare than the respective tail of the socially optimal path. The result is formalized and applied to the created framework of optimal phosphorus use.


EPrint Type:Thesis
Keywords:phosphorus fertilization, soil phosphorus, phosphorus runoff, dynamic programming
Subjects: Environmental aspects > Air and water emissions
Research affiliation: Finland > MTT Agrifood Research
Related Links:http://www.mtt.fi/english
Deposited By: Koistinen, Riitta
ID Code:18106
Deposited On:29 Nov 2010 13:38
Last Modified:29 Nov 2010 13:38
Document Language:English
Status:Published
Refereed:Peer-reviewed and accepted

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