Environmental tradeoffs of stover removal and erosion in Indiana


  • This work has in part been presented at the 2012 American Agricultural Economic Association Meetings held in Seattle, WA, USA.

Correspondence to: Alicia English, Department of Agricultural Economics, Purdue University, Krannert 613, West Lafayette, IN 47907-2056, USA. E-mail:


Abstract: When considering the market for biomass from corn stover resources, the consequences of soil erosion and soil quality issues are important considerations. Removal of stover can be beneficial in some areas, especially when coordinated with other conservation practices, such as vegetative barrier strips and cover crops. However, benefits are highly dependent on several factors, namely if farmers see costs and benefits associated with erosion and the tradeoffs with the removal of biomass. Although typically considered an internal cost, the implication is important to policy and contracting for biomass. This paper uses results from an integrated RUSLE2/WEPS model to incorporate six different regime choices, covering management, harvest, and conservation, into a simple profit maximization model to show these tradeoffs explicitly. The results of this work show how different costs for erosion, biomass, and conservation management will affect behavior. If the private costs of erosion are low and no conservation requirement exists, biomass removal will significantly increase erosion, but only in some areas. Alternatively, when erosion prices are high, farmers will parallel socially optimal levels of erosion, and conservation management practices can be incentivized through access to a market for stover. © 2013 Society of Chemical Industry and John Wiley & Sons, Ltd