Artificial drainage is among the most widespread land improvements for agriculture. Drainage benefits crop production, but also promotes nutrient losses to water resources. Here, we outline how a systems perspective for sustainable intensification of drainage can mitigate nutrient losses, increase fertilizer nitrogen-use efficiency and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. There is an immediate opportunity to realize these benefits because agricultural intensification and climate change are increasing the extent and intensity of drainage systems. If a systems-based approach to drainage can consistently increase nitrogen-use efficiency, while maintaining or increasing crop production, farmers and the environment will benefit.
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This work was supported by the US Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture Grant no. 20196701929404, the Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research, the Iowa State University (ISU) Plant Sciences Institute Faculty Scholars program, and a professional development assignment to M.J.C. that was granted by ISU and hosted by ETH-Zürich.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Castellano, M.J., Archontoulis, S.V., Helmers, M.J. et al. Sustainable intensification of agricultural drainage. Nat Sustain 2, 914–921 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-019-0393-0